Indian football was on the verge of getting wiped out until I- League and Indian Super League have made its way into the sports circuit. ISL was successful in attracting the audiences to the stadiums and with a large number of celebrities, corporates owning or jointly owning, promoting football in India appeared to be a flourishing model for the growth of football and on the other hand, I- league was going through to has its share of problems with few of the clubs threatening to quit due minimal exposure and less revenue and at a time when ISL was taking its baby steps. But, the pertinent questions to be asked are, have these leagues nurtured the football talent in India and helped Indian football to scale greater heights? The reports suggest NO, According to a news item published by NDTV in which ex-coach of FC Goa stated that ISL is not helping Indian football due to two reasons:
- Over-reliance on the foreign players
- only two months of football activity (Which means the players are not active for about ten months in a year)
The problems that are plaguing the Indian football are more than two and the ideal football model can suit Indian setup and bring in the missing factors from the leagues could be a cooperative football club. The idea of a cooperative football club is an age old concept that has paved a way for some of the best football clubs in the UK, Europe and the more specifically all the clubs in Argentina are owned by the commoners. Cooperative football clubs are also known as fan owned football clubs; cooperative clubs have become a reality due to the theory of a cooperative society which can be defined “A Co-operative is an autonomous association of individuals voluntarily united to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”- International Co-operative Alliance, 1996 and the mechanism of a cooperative society is tailor made for the functioning of the football club that has the innate values of helping football grow and encouraging fan participation on a large scale and also ensuring the consistent revenue by way of business. Hence, the structure of cooperative society and the principles are such that they intend to benefit every section of the society and few of them include:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
These are all characteristics that can surely be the driving forces for the welfare of the football and simultaneously boost the revenue making procedure of the club using football as the medium. Furthermore, Cooperative football club has been a successful model and continue to do with proper support from the fans, and this can happen when the fans themselves are engaged and lead from the front. A cooperative football club has all the ingredients of a fool proof business method and if implemented in India and fruits of the success are far reaching. The advantages of a Cooperative football club are:
Ownership of Fans– The club will be owned by the fans
Community Engagement – Investors are more excited by the feeling of ownership than the monetary returns they may earn.
Locally based – the Society will retain profits to re-invest in expanding its services for the benefit of the local area and the local economy. It is expected the majority of shareholders will come from the local area so any return on investment will also remain in the local area and local economy.
Sustainable development – Cooperatives are generally more environmentally conscious than other businesses, even those whose core business is not an environmental service.
One Member, One Vote – The poorest are not excluded from active lifestyles by a lack of capital. The pooling of resources to a central investment pot allows investment by independent criteria rather than by the demands of capital. Ownership by all stakeholders on a one-stakeholder-one-vote basis will facilitate wide public ownership and encourage investment regardless of wealth
Improve bargaining power– The membership base will enhance the bargaining power to negotiate for better sponsorship and other business deals
The functioning of the cooperative football clubs is simple and hassle free with revenue pouring in from different sources. The road ahead seems bright for Indian football if we welcome the idea of a cooperative football club and nurtures the Indian football talent in a way to not only play football at a league stage and be contented but to represent India at the biggest of stages. One such attempt is being made by Sports & Management Research Institute based out of Ernakulum, Kerala. The institute is one of the few organizations in India dedicated to sports research. The Institute has designed courses such as sports engineering and sports business for wannabe sports engineers, marketers and entrepreneurs. The very same Institute has taken the initiative to kick-start the revolution of football in India with a noble idea of cooperative society. SMRI under the leadership of Mr.Sijin is moving in the right direction to bring football closer to the commoners and thereby benefit from supporting the development of football in India and ultimately be the first fan-owned club in Asia. The institute is making rapid strides towards achieving their goals after having registered the society in the name Kerala Football Development Cooperative society limited and the club will be seeing its first owners after their first promoters meeting which is scheduled be in January 2016.
The time has come to think beyond the traditional methods of playing and supporting football in India. In an era of leagues of where corporate giants, sports associations are tying up to encourage sports. Unfortunately, the steps taken are not sufficient enough to generate revenue and also help the sports grow. Therefore, individuals, institutes, organizations should come together in support of cooperative football clubs and make India not only a country of diverse languages, cultures but also a land of different sports and keeping football at the heart of the all.
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