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New secy on mission to correct soccer’s image
- Selling the game a priority

Calcutta: The support that Subrata Dutta enjoyed on his way to the secretary’s post at the Indian Football Association (IFA) showed clearly how eager Calcutta’s football circle was for this change. For years, since the death of Prodyut Dutta, the uncle of the new incumbent, power struggles were all that the IFA had witnessed. The duality of the post did little to recreate the strong image that the association once had.

Dutta brings with him the wisdom and experience of corporate governance, having pushed the length and breadth of his family business, George Telegraph. That’s why he talks about professionalism with ease and insists that the key to good results is to “have the right people at the right place and then delegate responsibility and attach accountability.”

Talking to The Telegraph after becoming secretary, Dutta said: “I will insist on teamwork. That will be my first act.” What he can actually achieve in this laggard system only time can tell, but the association itself needs quick infusion of funds and, more importantly, an objective.

“I need the quantity first to get the quality…,” he says, before moving into a vision of “academies in every district and steps towards professionalism and an improvement in refereeing (he cannot forget how his own team, George Telegraph had been in the news for rather un-gentlemanly acts on the Maidan) and towards money from television.”

Nothing new, so far. Except for the fact that Dutta intends to provide some level of transparency to the operations of the IFA. He intends to have a media communication cell and he wants to sell the sport to the corporates…

“I wish to have a tournament by the corporates,” he says wishfully. Another merchants’ cup' “No, a meet in which top corporations will be asked to bring top teams from around the globe (like Philips had brought PSV Eindhoven for the Supersoccer series), or bring in superstar players on lien and play a tournament where we can have special registration rules.”

Dutta speaks from the strength of being a member of the AIFF’s new Task Force. He realises that to a certain extent he will be able to push his ideas through. “Look, you need to sell football, like the CAB has sold cricket. For that you have to first take care of the spectators. They need some level of comfort at the grounds, they need some amenities. They also would love it better if the matches were played under floodlights.”

Dutta’s plan is to not just make optimum usage of the Salt Lake lights, but also to enhance the lights already installed at the Mohun Bagan ground. He wants more lights at other grounds.

The ideas sound good, and Dutta has prepared a good many papers on it. But does he have the necessary personnel equipped to do what he really wants done' Any big change is unlikely to be achieved with the current manpower and current personnel talent pool.

“That’s where the professionals come in,” he says. “If you need to make the web-site of the association (www.ifasoccer.com) up and running, if you need to have the sponsors lured, if you need the image to be corrected…”

The finances, if one looks deep into the coffers of the organisation, aren’t too healthy, really.

From April 1, 2002 to March 31 2003, total income of the association was over Rs 1.8 crore, up Rs 0.2 crore from the budgeted figure of that period. And it is interesting to note that a huge percentage of that is the Rs 1.42 crore from ESPN as sponsorship fee (now, that is down Rs 0.02 crore from the corresponding budgeted figure).

The expenditure for that period was Rs 1.76 crore, not really leaving much elbow space for ambitious projects of the association. “Look I am not very satisfied with what ESPN has been doing with the Calcutta soccer rights. I believe they could market it better instead of just showing capsules, and they could make money out of it, and we could, in the process, make more,” says Dutta. “I believe the electronic media has a big role to play in the development of local soccer.”

Mohammedan Sporting’s promotion to the National League comes at a right time, too. The more the merrier, it says, and this club, if nothing, has a great fan following in many areas in this country.

What Dutta realises is that there are more avenues for expansion and exposure than convention assigns. Therein will lie the success of the secretary, and the association.

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