Indian Soccer League Postponed

New Tournament Kicks Off With Own Goal

HONG KONG — The starting whistle for the proposed new made-for-TV soccer league in India has been kicked back by nine months to September 2014.

The ambitious new tournament is backed by talent agency and promoter IMG-Reliance with 21st Century Fox’s pay-TV group Star India holding 35%, in association with the All India Football Federation.

It was unveiled a week ago with an anticipated start date of Jan. 18, 2014, but will now move to a new permanent slot between September and November each year for ten years, starting in Sept. 2014.

Organizers blamed a shortage of stadiums, a clash with the regular Indian soccer season and the non-availability of a venue in Goa, due to the Lusofonia games.

“The launch of Indian Super League has generated an overwhelming response not only in India but also in the overseas market over the last two weeks. Many proposed League partners and stakeholders have reached out to the organizing committee with suggestions,” the three organizations said in a joint statement.

The new date also means that the ISL will kick off roughly seven weeks after the end of the soccer World Cup to be held next year in June and July in Brazil.

Cricket is far and away India’s most popular sport. In the past there have been numerous other attempts to promote others – notably badminton and field hockey – as the country’s second sport.

“India is hungry for its second sport. Combining top notch infrastructure with our expertise in sports production, our attempt is to bring an unparalleled football experience to our viewers,” said Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India.

According to local media reports Star India is paying some $32.6 million (INR2 billion) for its stake and the broadcast rights.

The tournament is modeled on the hugely successful Indian Premier League, in which teams/franchises are backed by corporations and wealthy individuals such as film star Shah Rukh Khan, and use a mix of foreign and local players whose services are bought at a publicity-fueling auction.

The ISL proposes eight teams associated with the cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi, Goa, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. It has already named 67 Indian players and aging international stars including Louis Saha, Dwight Yorke, Fredrik Ljungberg, Hernan Crespo and Robert Pires.

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