Thursday, 3 January 2013

Does Indian football deserve more Media coverage?

This is a question which I have been asking myself for a while. If we look at the year 2011 so far, we have had Indian participation in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after 27 long years, then there was the successful 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur plus the I-League is heading for an interesting finale; but then there was also India's 2011 Cricket World Cup triumph and now we are into the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.

But is this all somehow linked? Certainly if you are looking at the media coverage that Indian football gets in the national media. And I am explicitly saying Indian football and not football in general; then the English Premier League, Spain's Primera Division, other European leagues and the UEFA Champions League have mostly retained their slots on television and place in newspapers though the EPL did lose some airtime on ESPN-Star Sports during the Cricket World Cup.

I strongly believe that Indian football deserves better television coverage! But no one is willing to take a chance or even a gamble in today's media industry. There is a simple reason behind it, then whoever tries some new or out of the box and fails will be out of a job. So many in the industry simply cover what the others are broadcasting. And sadly this attitude is hurting not only Indian football, but Indian sports in general.

Currently on national television there is no Indian football coverage, only a regional Bengali news channel shows the I-League matches live involving the three Kolkata sides - East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Chirag United. Some will say better then nothing, but this is harming the I-League, the image of the league, its reach and its marketability. There are rumours in the industry that Sony's Set Max or Neo Sports could take the rights for the next season, but by then we have lost a year.

On national news channels football or other sports have mainly disappeared from their topics of coverage with cricket, cricket and even more cricket being covered. I remember last year at a conference I was sitting with the sports heads of two news channels and had to tell them that East Bengal would face Mohun Bagan in the Federation Cup final a couple of days later, which was even a topic on

The only exception to this happens to be Kolkata and their numerous sports programs, who regularly cover football stories, but mainly related to Kolkata and the big Maidan clubs. Why else would they cover?

In newspapers it sadly isn't much different with up to 75% of sports pages filled with cricket or cricket related news these days. The I-League has become a side story which is covered in a column or sometimes a little more with match stats completely disappearing from the papers.

I have been reading again and again that fans would love to see the use of social media and YouTube for coverage, but I do not see that as a priority. We need to have Indian football covered by mainstream media first then everything else follows. Otherwise the coverage will become a niche product and we want Indian football to reach more and more people.

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