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AIFF ropes in new sponsor

New Delhi: The cash-strapped All India Football Federation (AIFF) had something to cheer about on Saturday when it bagged an annual sponsorship of Rs. five crore for the national team.

Announcing this at a press conference in Gurgaon, the AIFF president, Praful Patel said electronics giants Panasonic would be sponsoring the national team for a period of three years.

The sponsorship has definitely come as a huge boost for the federation, which has been grappling with financial problems for the past several months despite having an ambitious plan for the 2010-11 season.

With India participating in the final rounds of the Asian Cup after 25 years in January, 2011 in Doha, the AIFF had chalked out a big project on preparations of the team and passed an overall annual budget of around Rs 54 crore during its last annual general meeting.

The bulk of this amount will be spent on the Asian Cup preparations with the senior national team and the under-23 side accounting for Rs. 20 crore. Last year, the AIFF budget was of Rs 27 crore.

Though the AIFF has bagged a grant of Rs. 25 crore from Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) for the Asia Cup preparations and Rs 10 crore from the sports ministry for the preparations of the U-23 squad that will take part in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the non-payment of dues by its sponsors and marketing partners has put it in a spot of bother.

“For the 2009-10 season, we were supposed to receive Rs 22 crore from Zee Sports, our broadcasting partner,” said a senior AIFF official. “But as of now, at least Rs eight crore is pending,” he added.

To add to the woe, the I-League sponsors, ONGC is yet to pay any money for the 2009-10 season. “They are supposed to pay us Rs six crore annually but we haven’t yet received any money,” the official added.

“The budget for the current I-League is around Rs 10 crore. With little payment coming from broadcasters and sponsors, we are being forced to spend the BCCI money to run the league.

Once the payments are made, everything would be adjusted,” the official assured.

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