ESS TV mikes up refs at Kolkata's IFA Shield

In what is said to be a world first, referees will wear a radio microphone in the IFA Shield commencing 24 November in Kolkata, India. ''For the first time ever in the history of the game a referee is going to carry a radio microphone on the ground. He will be wearing a one-way radio microphone which will pick up his voice and that of any player in very close proximity," announced Subrata Dutta, honorary secretary of the Indian Football Association, the controlling body of football in the state of West Bengal.

''Due to the crowd noise the microphone won't pick up any voices much further than a few metres away. The signal from the microphone will be used only when there is a moment when he is talking with players, explaining decisions, '' he explained.

Dutta told Business Standard that business is "now backing" football in India. ISA Shield sponsorship has topped Rs 10 million from the likes of Allahabad Bank, Chirag, Playwin, Sangbad Pratidin, SWC, HHI, Hindustan Times, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital and broadcaster ESPN-Star Sports.

ESPN Star Sports has also announced that it will be flying five footballers from the Kolkata Police Friendship Football Tournament played earlier this year, Tapas Dolui, Papu Das, Sanjay Mallick, Tapas Das and Arshad Ali, for a guided tour of London's football stadiums including the home grounds of top English Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"Soccer is a craze in Kolkata, be it international, European or local and this is ESPN STAR Sports' initiative to present a learning opportunity to upcoming talent from the pool of players in the tournament," said ESPN Star Sports VP sales and marketing Sricharan Iyengar.

The Kolkata Police Friendship Football Tournament is a police initiative to reach out to the youth of Kolkata in an informal and friendly manner. It generated huge interest in the city with more than 500 teams participating, a significant increase from 461 teams that competed last year.

See also: Bayern Munich discovers India in "South East Asia" (9 Nov)