The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) commercial partners IMG-Reliance (IMG-R) will now have a direct say in national team affairs, including selection of coaches, after the governing body included Sundar Raman, the former IPL boss and current CEO of Reliance Sports, in its all-important technical committee on Thursday. Legendary player Shyam Thapa, a member of the team that won a bronze medal at the 1970 Asian Games, replaced Baichung Bhutia as the chairman of the committee, with former India goalkeeper Henry Menezes as his deputy. However, it was Raman’s inclusion that is most intriguing.
This is the first time the AIFF has officially included its marketing partners in important decision-making bodies. Apart from Raman, seven other IMG-R officials were inducted in various committees, ranging from legal to competitions. IMG-R is the biggest source of revenue for the AIFF, contributing approximately Rs 50 crore annually at the moment.
The amount is used to fund all national team activities, in running the I-League and other domestic tournaments, apart from administrative works. Apart from that, IMG-R also conducts the Indian Super League (ISL) and is likely to be key stakeholders in the revamped domestic structure, which is likely to be rolled out later this year or in 2018.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das and senior vice-president Subrata Dutta said it was hence essential for IMG-R to have a larger say in the game’s administration. “Commercialisation of the game depends on performance of the national team. They are investing in the game, so they should have a say in our affairs. We should also take their opinion,” Dutta said after AIFF’s executive committee meeting on Thursday, where the appointments were made official.
IMG-R entered into a 15-year relationship with the AIFF in 2010 worth Rs 700 crore. In return, IMG-R was given all commercial rights to football in the country, including sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, film, intellectual property and new league rights. Das said inclusion of IMG-R officials in the AIFF committees was also a part of the deal. “IMG-R, as per the agreement, were always supposed to be in the committees. Everything is related to commercial exploitation. We wanted an outsider to tell us, with his BCCI experience, how we can actually improve the technical committee’s decision making,” Das said, explaining Raman’s inclusion in the panel.
Raman, Das said, is a ‘dynamic and proactive character’ who will help the committee in improving its decision making. One of the key tasks of the technical committee is to appoint the national team coach.
Stephen Constantine, the current chief coach, has been vocal against the ISL in the past, which sources say hasn’t gone down well with AIFF and their commercial partners.
Constantine is expected to toe the line now. “I have explained to Stephen several times that his role is to take the national team to the Asian Cup. He should not be looking at anything else. Why should the commercial partners, especially a person with Sundar Raman’s experience, not give suggestions as to how best we can go about the process of selecting the coach,” Das said.
Constantine’s contract expires in March 2018, but will be up for review in June. His future will depend on how India performs in the Asian Cup qualifiers till then. Dutta said Raman’s opinion would be taken into consideration because of his ‘previous experience in similar capacity with the BCCI.’
“As they are our marketing and commercial partners, they should also have a say in the performance of national team which depends on selection of right coach. And being an experienced sports professional, we should also take Sundar’s opinion.”