Daft! Really Daft!

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After days of fortunate and not so fortunate speculation about LFC in Asia and Asians in LFC, finally FSG announced the summer tour of Asia. Some of my previous posts were inspired by the fact that LFC was missing out on Asian (specifically Indian) markets and this should do well to answer some of those. Congratulations to the Reds in Malaysia, South Korea and China.

May be I am a nationalist, and may be my reasoning is blurred because of that, but, one notable exception from the list is India. Does it have to do with India’s football ranking? I wouldn’t think so since these tours are marketing exercises rather than scouting missions. Interest in football? Surely there’s enough interest in football, may be a small percentage of population but a small percentage of a 1.2 billion population is bigger than some countries. Economy/ Opportunity? With India spreading in tennis, F1, shooting and other sports and being colossal in cricket, I don’t think that should be a reason. Then Why? May be next year or year after next. Well, that’s just passing the opportunity to the rival clubs.

Since Summer tours are about marketing and developing fan bases, I would concentrate only on the financial aspects of the opportunity that is being missed.

The biggest sport in the country of course is Cricket. Not just that, India is the biggest country (in terms of money) for Cricket. So much so, that apparently 70% (as read everywhere) of the revenue for the game is generated in India. A majority of the principal sponsors of the global events are Indian. Club level cricket is facing a boom time because India took to club cricket a little less than 4 years ago. Sometimes, even teams of foreign clubs advertise Indian sponsors in some competitions. IPL (Indian Premier League), a competition for 8-10 clubs in India pays cricketers more per game than most footballers in English or Spanish leagues get (Kevin Pietersen would have made $1.5 million had he played 4 weeks of IPL in 2009, about £250,000 per week). Most recently, an IPL franchise was sold for $370 million. A franchise doesn’t get to own players or stadia or facilities or other such things. The $370million only bought the right to participate in the IPL for 10 years or so and to use the BCCI stadia for not more than 10 games. The payroll is upwards of $10 million per season (of 4 weeks).

Unlike earlier times, India also has a huge market and appetite for sports. That has further gone on to be displayed on the field not in terms of performance but atleast in terms of participation. The most expensive (since we’re talking money) sport in the world – F1 – now has an Indian team, an Indian track (starting this October, possibly), an Indian driver and a test driver apart from some backroom people. Even the Asian broadcasting partners for the sport have an Indian flavor to their programming.

Even football has become quite big in India. I personally feel that football is the #2 sport in the country in terms of viewership. All major European leagues – English, Spanish, Italian & German, along with Champions League and Europa League – are telecast on TV here. There are TV slots for Championship, Scottish League and Eredivisie as well. An Indian company now owns a PL club. Another Indian owns a La Liga club. Jaguar – a subsidiary of an Indian automobile manufacturer – has sponsorship tie up with Manchester City Football Club (although they need none), an Indian telecommunications company supports Manchester United. There’s an Indian element in ownership of QPR as well although that’s got very little to do with India. An IT company from India was a second level sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.

Locally speaking, every sport shop in the country has dedicated rows for football replica jerseys. Nike – Man Utd, Arsenal, Barcelona, Brazil; Adidas – Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Argentina. The national jerseys of Holland, France, Spain and other nations also spring up during national competitions. Almost every youngster these days has allegiance to a club. And most companies in India as well as some football clubs are trying to ensure that this allegiance benefits them. Networks would vouch for the viewership numbers in the country and believe me, it wouldn’t be a sad picture at all.

What is sad is the amount of recognition that Liverpool Football Club and the partners have given to India. India is the second most profitable market for Standard Chartered Bank with multi-billion dollars of reported profit and all they have done is sponsor a weekly interview column in a national daily and running a competition for a free shirt early on in the seaon. Apart from that, nothing that I have seen! LFC doesn’t one a single recognized fan club in the country. Not one bar or cafe either. Couple that with the fact that we’ve not won anything for the past 3-4 years and that, what is the strategy for going out to a 9 or 10 year old in India and asking him to pick Liverpool Football Club as his preferred club in the world? The fans that the club has in India do everything on their own with not an iota of reciprocation or recognition of this support.

The six biggest cities in India (the metropolitans per se) have a combined population of more than 50 million (double the entire population of Malaysia, not to say anything against Malaysia but putting things in perspective) with youth being in majority. What kind of analyst is required to understand the potential this holds?

While ignoring India hasn’t been smart, what makes it really surprising is that giving away a franchise license for a bar or recognizing an official supporter group doesn’t cost the club a bomb – at most a few thousand dollars per instance which would anyway be recovered by the royalties within weeks. What’s also beyond my understanding is how Standard Chartered affords to ignore India having signed one of the most expensive shirt sponsorship deals in the history.

All major sports and sponsors have used their associations to promote their entities in this country. An actress from India is also the ambassador of ManCity’s principal sponsors Etihad  (both Etihad and ManCity have the same family as owners) and did an appearance there and was more than amply visible on the news here. Manchester United has 3 bars in the Greater Delhi area itself. Audi brought Bayern Munich to India a few years back. Adidas has all sorts of banners promoting the Chelsea merchandise. Even Airtel made India’s leading actor claiming that Nani is best footballer in the world in one of the advertisements. What has SC done for Liverpool in India?

The youngsters are not going to wait to pick their choice of clubs. If it’s not Liverpool Football Club, an entire lifetime of revenue from that individual is gone. Multiply that with the number of people swearing allegiance to other clubs on a daily basis, the losses are there to be counted – about 7% of India’s population is urban and under 14 years of age.

I thought, someone at Standard Chartered had been daft in ignoring India. Latest instance of ignorance only confirms it.


  1. Myself being from Nepal, I’d love if they came to India. Well Nepal doesn’t have the infrastructure to host a club as big as LFC. The only way people in Nepal could get to see the Reds play in front of their own eyes is if they played anywhere near Nepal and India being a neIghbor of ours, I’m pretty sure many reds including myself would definitely go to India.

    follow me on twitter @redneo91.


  2. Hey Kaushal, been meaning to get in touch with you since one of your earlier posts where you had argued the case of the opportunity LFC had in the Indian market. Would the idea of blood reds Indians (pardon the expression!!) forming a registered supporters’ association and approaching the club with a proposal to increase visibility in India be that daft? If yes, then there’s nothing more to say. If no, then do contact me at kunalroy2712@gmail.com and maybe this can be taken forward by other enthusiastic & passionate supporters as well.

  3. India does seem like a market that has potential for EPL teams to exploit and Liverpool could be the first to try. However, I feel with the limited pre season schedule. Liverpool should reward their loyal fans for their support in Asia first by visiting them before exploring any new potential markets. Looking after your own fans is the Liverpool way.

    1. Fair point William but I don’t think China would a part of the argument. I am talking from the commercial point of view as far as summer tours are concerned and I don’t think there’s no commercial interest in these tours. Also, as I’ve mentioned in the article, India has a fairly warm market now and am disappointed that LFC or it’s sponsors haven’t begun to explore it already.

  4. well written mate… India indeed remains a largely untapped resource of footballing interests n revenues that come with them… feel gutted to c ManU n Chelsea start new ventures, with the former starting official club bars… all this while there is not the slightest sign of a REDs initiative in the country!!

  5. being a fellow red from india, i fully understand your concerns.
    but we have to be realistic.
    fans in malaysia and china will fill up stadia.
    right now, in india , this will not happen.
    the point is, liverpool has many more fans in malaysia, hong kong, japan and china because of istanbul.
    when liverpool won the champs league, football was beginning to grow in these countries, so there are many liverpool fans there.
    in india however, football has started to grow after the 2006 world cup. believe me, i have the facts to prove this.
    we have had no success since then.
    torres is gone.
    how many liverpool fans will come to watch a friedly?
    maybe 10000 at best.
    but that is not good enough.
    football is on the rise in india, but we have to win something first.
    success= fans= $$
    u would certainly agree with me that for every liverpool fan in india there will be 1000 united fans.
    that is not good enough for the club to make a pre season tour.

  6. if liverpool can win things in the coming years, then we can certainly see a pre season coming soon

  7. united has bars in india because of their massive fanbase here.
    95% of indian fans are united supporters.
    fact- liverpool does not have the same pull as manchester united in INDIA.
    and the reason is not lack of marketing.
    the reason is lack of success.
    however rest assure fellow reds.,
    all the $$ from the bars and cafe’s in india is going to service debts for the glazer family.
    hate united. love glazers!

    1. Sid, I agree that ManU has more supporters. I also agree in part that some of it has to do with the success ManU has enjoyed in the past 10-12 years. Similarly, youngsters tend to tread cautiously when they want to pick their clubs given Liverpool’s report card.
      Success is something that the business side of a club can hardly guarantee and cannot do more than creating a right environment for success. Marketing is something they can but have depressingly chosen not to in this part of the world. That is what this rant was about.
      Coming or not coming to India is not the primary concern. The concern is that we have been devoid of any attention from the concerned people. India reciprocates warmly to people who respect us. Fiat failed in India and is still failing simply because they launched an obsolete to the rest of the world model long back in India. While, Vodafone is loved because they get Lewis Hamilton to come here.
      About the spectators, I cannot say if there would be 10,000 supporters or not but my instinct says that more than 50,000 Kolkatans would gather to get even a glimpse of a full English club playing football. That said, ticket sales are never the primary income source or potential income source from India. It’s the advertising and partnership. Companies like Airtel are willing to shell out the moolah. Clubs like ManU are aware to grab it. Moreover, sponsors are using their partnerships to increase market size but for them and for their clubs but there is a huge market which SCB is oblivious to.
      One last thing, if success is absent, marketing is all the more required to promote the club in a region. The reason why there are less supporters rests with the club and not with the supporters that are already there. Some clubs win and people hop on to their bandwagon. The club that hasn’t won but is still worthy of the support needs to tell the people why. The local fans do that obviously. Club should help them in the effort.

  8. “youngsters tend to tread cautiously when they want to pick their clubs given Liverpool’s report card.”
    i think kids dont think much while deciding which team to support.
    it is generally the team that wins, that makes NEW fans.
    anyway coming back to your point,.
    i agree that the club is not doing enough.
    but my point is that until we win something, the club cant do much more than what it is doing now.
    let us take your example.
    airtel has a man united pack.
    because there is a huge united fanbase here.
    i dont think they would be that eager to partner liverpool.
    u need to realise that fans like yourselves are a rarity.
    most fans are there for the glory.
    united has produced global superstars like beckham, ronaldo, rooney.
    liverpool has no big stars.
    you further said that “my instinct says that more than 50,000 Kolkatans would gather to get even a glimpse of a full English club playing football. “.
    i have lived in kolkata for 6 years.
    i went to the bayern match at the netaji subhash salt lake stadium.
    and believe me, the only reason there were so many fans was because it was ” oliver kahn’s” farewell match.
    liverpool has no such pull in INDIA.
    had torres been here, there was a chance.
    had stevie been a bigger hit with england at the world cup, it might happen.
    had we won something in the last few years , it might have happened.
    but right now, there is no chance of anything substantial happening in india.
    it might change drastically very soon.
    and suarez has to be the man, if we have to be big in india.
    i am a keralite and have lived in bengal.
    i know the mentality.
    south americans and germans are much more popular.

    1. If Kolkatans can come to watch an old goalkeeper and not a striker, I’m sure Suarez will tempt them to come in bigger numbers. Anyway, this point is moot. A million dollars of ticket revenue is not the target of the essay.
      Success, as I said, cannot be guaranteed. In the absence of success, marketing has to play a key, an even more important, role. We didn’t win much in 90s but still added fans. We still add fans.

  9. i have read some of your earlier posts .
    u seem to be concerned about lack of merchandising in the adidas stores.
    i will tell u something sir.
    in 2006, when a new adidas store opened there was more liverpool merchandise than chelsea merchandise.
    a stevie g poster was in front of the store, alongwith becks.
    a sony store nearby had a gerrard poster too?
    ill tell you why.
    liverpool had just won the fa cup.
    stevie scored a smasher in the last minute.
    cut to 2011.
    no liverpool jersey at the store, which is full of chelsea stuff.
    chelsea are the league and cup champions.
    success is everything sir.
    merchandising is about making money out of fans.
    but u need to have fans first.
    and the majority of fans are just there for glory.
    the rare ones like yourself, will be there, ofcourse.
    i totally agree with u on the bars and cafe’ issue, however.
    i think the club needs to look into it.
    and its not as if the club’s doing nothing. we have an academy in pune ( as u rightly mentioned in one of your ealrier articles), and i just hope a wonderkid from india goes on to play for the club.
    that way, no one will be able to stop us in india, lol!

    1. Look boss, success sure is important. Doesn’t mean that you ain’t gonna do nothing if there’s a lack of it. Posters in 2006 were not as required as they are in 2011. There was a pull in the market then, marketing is required today to create the push. Daftness, the one talked about in the post, is not about not coming to India but the lack of attention to the region. Stereotyping all Indian fans’ intelligence as glory-hunters is precisely the sort of thing that we can do without.

  10. “If Kolkatans can come to watch an old goalkeeper and not a striker, I’m sure Suarez will tempt them to come in bigger numbers. Anyway, this point is moot. A million dollars of ticket revenue is not the target of the essay.”
    i have to agree.
    all i am saying is, as of now , not coming to india may not be as daft as you say it is, although it is a bit careless.

  11. I was thinking from where to start and thank you Kaushal Goyal, you gave me the right topic to bigin, well first of all i am from Pakistan, and lets be honest with india lies one my major rivilery as from birth and after reading and understanding the history, I see them as it.
    But being a Liverpool Fanatic, i see where Kaushal is coming from and I feel, he is right and we LFC should look into it, the sub-continet is a very pationate area, we stick to what we attach at young age, and thus, if caught / told at the right age we can stick to right values (such as LFC) but if not, then some bad habbits may creep in (chelsea, Man-Utd and most recently ManCity) so we need to look in to this 1.8 Billion fan base, thats in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, we can definatly start from India and the fever will catch in other areas as well.


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