India’s next cash cow?

Posted by Mahir Prasad on 15:19

In 2008, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) formulated a tournament that would revolutionise the sport in an already cricket-crazy country. The rest, they say, is history.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has brought global recognition to cricket and to the Indian game in particular. In just two years of its existence, the IPL was already the sixth most valuable sporting properties in the world, according to SportsPro magazine.

But recognition is not all that the IPL brought to Indian Cricket. The tournament provided an opportunity to young local players to rub shoulders with some of the world’s elite and learn from these legends at first hand.

The result of this was instant as the Indian national team, fuelled by some young blood, quickly rose to the top of the rankings in both the Test and One-Day format of the sport. It was only logical that Indian Football follows the same path.

Football in India is regarded as the neglected step-sibling of cricket. It has, in the past, struggled to garner financial support either privately or from the government, and the facilities in the country are sub-standard, at best. The national team is ranked 158th in the latest FIFA ranking and has never participated in the World Cup.

India football’s golden period was way back in the 1950s, when they were regarded the best team in Asia. However, lack of financial support, loss of fans and development of the sport in other Asian nations have seen India fade away into obscurity.

The national league, or the I-League as it is called today, was revamped in the mould of the English Premier League in 2007 to generate some interest in the sport. However, the new-look league struggled even to gain a TV partner to broadcast it in the country.

According to reports, most I-League clubs failed to have any marketing plan, when it comes to their fans, which explains average crowds of just 3,913 in the 2010-11 season, making it difficult for Indian clubs to earn money.

The current state of Indian Football, though, is perplexing, given the growing popularity of the sport amongst the nation’s youth. According to the TAM Media Research, India's football audience increasedby 60% from 2005 to 2009. This trend was further reinforced by a Nielsen survey in 2010, which found that 47% of India's population describe themselves as football fans.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter also hailed India in 2006 after it was revealed that over 50 million people tuned in to watch the World Cup in Germany - a 44% rise from the 2002 figure.

Recognizing this trend, Kolkata’s Indian FootballAssociation (IFA) along with Celebrity Management Group (CMG) have come up with a concept that could finally provide the much-needed kick-start the reformation of Indian football.

Dubbed "Premier League Soccer" (PLS), this IPL-style league will get some top international stars to play alongside the national and youth players of the nation. The tournament will be held over seven weeks from February in the state of West Bengal and will be telecast live on a regional channel. All matches will be played under floodlight.

The league will consist of six teams from Kolkata, Howrah, Siliguri, Midnapore, Barasat and Asansol. Six franchisees will bid to own a team from one of these towns in a competitive bidding system. The bidding companies will only be eligible if they have a turnover of $10 million in the last three years.

Once the ownership of each team is decided, there will be a second auction; this time to determine the roster of each team. CMG'sExecutive Director Bhaswar Goswami recently said, "we are busy creating a pool of approximately 100 players across the country for the auction. At the most, 84 of them will be sold in the auction. The list is at the final stage and will be released to all concerned soon."

Each franchisee will be allowed a budget of $2.5 million in the first year, to bid for players. Each team will have a maximum of three overseas players, at least one player of Asian origin, a minimum of six under-21 players and five catchment players and at the most 10 players from the rest of India.

No team can have a squad greater than 18 players, one UEFA or FIFA 'A' licenced coach of overseas origin, an assistant coach and a physiotherapist. The starting line-up can have no more that three international players and must have at least one player of Asian origin and an under-21 player.

Apart from the three overseas players, there will be one ‘Icon player’ with Italy’s world cup winning skipper Fabio Cannavaro, Argentinians Hernan Crespo and Juan Pablo Sorin, Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha, Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler and Arsenal’s Robert Pires shortlisted to be these icons. Former AC Milan midfielder Edger Davids, Real Madrid’s Fernando Morientes, Portugal’s Sergio Conceiaco and Maniche and Japan’s Junichi Inamoto are expected to be the other high profile players up for auction.

Former Nigerian coach Samson Siasia, Iceland’s Teitur Thordarson, former Bolivian international Marco Etcheverry, ex Manchester City boss Peter Reid, Liverpool legend John Barnes, former Portugal defender Fernando Couto and ex Bolton Wanderers coach Colin Todd will be the coaches vying to manage of the six teams.

During the auction, the base price of the icon players will be $400,000-600,000 and of the coaches will be $200,000. The senior or category-A players will cost at least $200,000 while the Under-21 footballers will cost a minimum of $100,000.

The main objectives of Premier League Soccer are to improve the infrastructure of football in Bengal and revitalize the sports among the people of Bengal. Apart from infrastructural development, the project is also expected to cover Youth Development and building up of a referee's academy.

If successful, the organisers have already mentioned expending the league to other parts of India. If the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) gives them their full backing, who knows, this may just be the foundation of hosting a future World Cup or even qualify or the mega event, which would considerably brighten he chances of Indian football being put back on the map of internationally acclaimed football.


The Erotic side of London

Posted by Mahir Prasad on 00:08

From the 19th to 21st of November the erotic atmosphere reappeared in London, as one of the most controversial festivals was organised in Britain’s capital.

Thousands of people visited the Olympia Exhibition Hall in Kensington where the Erotica Festival took place.

Although it has been accepted from a big part of the British society and the press has treated it nicely, for years there has been a debate raging as to whether erotica and pornography are one and the same.

Erotica followers insist that while it is adult oriented, erotica is mainly a form of art.

“My definition of erotica is if you take a chicken feather and tickle the top of your girlfriend’s leg then that is erotica. Pornography is when you use the whole live chicken! That’s the big difference and we are the erotic side not the pornographic side,” said Savvas Christodoulou chairman of Erotica Limited.

Mr Christodoulou’s company is the brains behind ‘Erotica UK’, an exhibition that lets the ‘artists’ show case their art.

One of the main characteristics of the Erotica festival is that it is a big market rather than an artistic event.

It is a form of business, with the difference that it focuses on more intimate aspects of human relations.

The event, which is aimed primarily at women and couples, has been running every November for 14 years.

The visitors are encouraged to celebrate or re-kindle their relationships with goods and services aimed to enhance their love lives.
World's Biggest Sex Shop

It is actually a big market where one can buy from sex toys to erotic paintings and also attend special workshops like erotic massage or dating coach.

“Don’t forget when the show is on for the 3 days we are technically the biggest sex shop in the world,” added Mr Christodoulou.

“Back in 1997 people were reluctant to buy sex toy because they were situated in sleazy back streets. We made it into an open area with a light environment so people were able to buy products.”

Going the Entertainment way

But it seems that even the sex industry is not recession proof. Over the last couple of years the festival has seen a dip in crowed attendance, with only around 60,000 people turning up this year as compared to 82,000 in 2006.

The decrease in the number of visitors is also related to the use of Internet. According to Mr. Christodoulou:

"People are coming at the festival, see the products and then they go back home to buy them online.’’

In order to counter this problem the organizers are shifting the focus more on the entertainment, with famous burlesque artist Dita Von Teese leading the various acts on show.

It is very obvious that the next few years the festival will move from being a market place to entertainment as an attempt to attract more visitors.

Mr Christodoulou also confirmed that they are in negotiation with a famous pop star to appear in next year’s festival. He also added that it is important to keep reinventing the show in order to keep it fresh.


Can England really afford to help Ireland?

Posted by Mahir Prasad on 00:44
Following a month of announcements about the various budgetary cuts, the last thing the British taxpayer wanted to hear was more money being taken out of their pocket.

Unlucky for them though that’s exactly what they woke up to today, when Chancellor George Osborne confirmed to the BBC that England would be dishing out around £7 billion to help the sinking economy of the Republic of Ireland.

Osborne’s announcement is a puzzling one considering the amount of money they are proposing to loan to Ireland is similar to the amount the Government want to save this year.
So then why hand out the loan when you clearly have a financial crisis of your own?

Need to help Ireland

Prime Minister David Cameron defended the decision to bail out Ireland saying, “We export more to Ireland than we do to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. Our banking systems are linked, our finances and economies are very linked so of course we stand ready to help.”

As the Guardian very rightly pointed out in an article a few days ago, a stable Irish banking system is crucial to the UK.

Not only because Ireland is its fifth-largest export market for Britain, but also because state-backed banks like the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds have loaned up to £53 billion to Irish companies and individuals.

So if these debtors default on their loans then the UK could soon be where Ireland is today.

It’s the Euro zone’s problem

However, despite the obvious reason to bail out Ireland, the Government is being criticized for helping a country whose economy aids the Euro.

Conservative backbencher Douglas Carswell told the BBC: "We shouldn't be paying to help keep Ireland in the euro. If we are going to pay to solve this crisis, we should be helping to pay Ireland to quit the euro.”

Experts like the Telegraph’s Daniel Hannan believe that Ireland is where it is because it gave up its individual currency and joined the Euro zone.

Chancellor Osborne though responded by telling the BBC, “Ireland is our very closest economic neighbour. I judged it to be in our national interest to be part of the international efforts to help the Irish.”

He also stressed that Britain does not want 'to be part of a permanent bail-out mechanism for the euro'.


Realisation of a Blogger

Posted by Mahir Prasad on 04:39
It is not suppose to be this hard!

For the last 10 minutes I have been sitting in front of my laptop staring at a blank white screen with the cursor line blinking constantly, taunting me, mocking me with every blink.

Writing is suppose to be easy, writing my thought down is suppose to be a piece of cake!
Then why is it that every time I sit down to blog all my thoughts, opinions and comments go rushing out of my mind.

All I am left with is that damn mocking cursor blinking away.

After the 15th minute passes without a single word on my screen I start to wonder, "What is the point!"

Who is really interested in my thoughts? Why should anyone care what I think of?

With my self confidence shredded to threads I decide to give up and hit the sack and then it dawns on me...

I have over 200 words on my screen telling me exactly what I think of blogging!

So I end just as I started, blogging is not suppose to be this hard, and you know what it is not! All you need is a first line and the rest just seems to follow!


Around the World in Five hours

Posted by Mahir Prasad on 13:46
From the bustling streets of New York to the Land of the Rising Sun in under 5 minutes. No I am not Superman, I am just a fascinated visitor to the World Travel Market.

Picture By: Laura Geisswiller
Staged annually in London, the World Travel Market is a hot spot for anyone associated with the travel industry or a travel enthusiast like me.

Launched in 1980, the travel market has grown in popularity as the years have passed, with over 24,000 people landing up at the ExCeL arena in London for the 4 day fair.

For those who belong to the industry the fair is a fantastic place to hobnob with their peers and make some valuable contacts.

However, for a general visitor like me, the travel market is a one stop shop for deciding the best destination for your next vacation, as well as soaking in some culture from around the World without even getting on a plane.

I spent my afternoon sampling some fine Caribbean rum while chomping on the word famous Belgian chocolates.

But most importantly I spent my time meeting delegates from all around the world who were present to promote their countries as a potential winter get away.

Overall the fair was a experience I am glad I had, even though it involved me traveling all the way across London, and I would definitely advise you catch it when it returns next year.

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