Indian companies investing more in football clubs

European football club culture is reportedly now beckoning Indian corporates. "While Pramod Mittal recently bought the Bulgarian football club CSKA Sofia, Indian corporates such as United Breweries and Mahindra & Mahindra are busy trying to turn their clubs - Kingfisher East Bengal and Mahindra United - into revenue generating units. Today, they are talking about formalising player transfers and getting sponsors akin to their European counterparts," Amanpreet Singh and Bhanu Pande observed in the Economic Times.

According to sources, Ispat Industries bought CSKA for Euro 15 million because Kremikovsti, the steel plant in Bulgaria owned by Mittal, had long patronised the club. “Steel behemoths traditionally support football in East Europe and most business houses have a passion for the game but the challenge is to run a club profitably,” says Anirban Das Blah, VP, Globosport, a sports management firm.

On the other hand, in a serious bid to professionalise their club, Mahindra United has changed five coaches in the last six years. “Soccer was M. Mahindra’s vision and currently we are looking at getting the NFL to Mumbai and making a mark in Asia,” said Alan Durand, the club's president and senior advisor.

Vijay Malaya’s United Breweries Group also wants to play ball. It has a stake in two of the biggest football clubs of Bengal; Kingfisher East Bengal and McDowell Mohun Bagan. Kingfisher East Bengal has alrerady signed up sub-branding deals and has a three-year kit deal with Reebok India.