Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Spanish league seeks eyeballs, Indian investors

- Sumil Sudhakaran

La Liga opened a satellite office in New Delhi on Thursday with the aim of promoting the league in India better and convincing Indian business houses to invest in Spanish clubs.

The task, however, is not easy as the league isn’t here to promote Real Madrid and Barcelona; the two giants don’t need much help. For that matter, even Atletico Madrid may not, having establishe­d a presence in India through their stake in the Indian Super League side Atletico de Kolkata. The challenge for La Liga is to make Indian fans follow the Villarreal­s, Sevillas and Espanyols of Spanish football.

“The strategy for La Liga is to make all the clubs in the league well known among Indian fans. Also, let’s not forget, when Real or Barcelona are playing, they mostly do so against other La Liga clubs. So familiarit­y is there. We will promote the clubs with that in mind. Also, we will bring the (less popular) clubs to play friendlies in India,” said Javier Tebas, president of La Liga. CORPORATE INTEREST Although not an explicitly stated goal, La Liga also hopes to attract Indian investors. World football has recently seen a spate of Chinese investment­s. Though La Liga has attracted Chinese money — Wanda Group owns 20% stake in Atletico, Rastar Group owns majority stake in Espanyol, and Granada CF are owned by Desports – the interest pales in comparison to what English football has garnered. Leicester City’s surprise victory last season in EPL has only attracted more investors as they see better traction on their investment­s in even mid-level or smaller clubs in England. Besides a 13% stake in Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Championsh­ip clubs Aston Villa, Leeds united, Wolverhamp­ton and Hull City too have attracted Chinese money.

La Liga is hoping to catch up, with offices in Beijing and Dubai, and is now hoping to create a ripple affect among Indian businessme­n. “Chinese investment is not a bubble. It is going to be bigger. On India, don’t forget an Indian was close to buying a La Liga club,” said Tebas, referring to the Bahrain-based Ahsan Ali Syed’s interest in Racing Santander in 2011.

“India will invest a lot in football within and outside the country in the coming years. We will like to be part of that journey. It is not an objective to find Indian investors for La Liga clubs, but if that happens, we will support that,” he added.


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