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Star owners add glamour to Indian Super League

New Delhi: The much-awaited franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL), to be played from September this year, is set to be an impressive star parade — at least if one looks at the list of owners.

The organisers of the IPL-style tournament, IMG-Reliance and Star India, are yet to reveal the possible list of star footballers.

However, two of the country’s greatest sporting icons, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, along with top film stars and leading businessmen, have bagged rights to own franchises in the eight-team city-based meet.

Owners of two I League teams, Goa’s Dempo Group and Lajong, have also joined the fray. Lajong would run their team from Guwahati, one of the eight venues for the tournament.

The Bollywood stars who have bid successfully are Ranbir Kapoor (with Bimal Parekh for Mumbai), Salman Khan (with Wadhawan Group for Pune) and John Abraham (with Lajong for Guwahati).

The most interesting team seems to be the one from Calcutta, where Spanish soccer giants Atletico Madrid have joined hands with Sourav and business tycoons like Harshavardhan Neotia and Sanjeev Goenka. Another businessman Utsav Parekh is also a partner in the franchise.

They have reportedly paid Rs 37cr for one season. The base price for bidding for a franchise team in the ISL was between Rs 12 to 15 cr.

Sources said the Sourav-led consortium faced a tough battle in the closed-bid process for the Calcutta franchise. Co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, Shah Rukh Khan, and the Zee Group, also tried hard to get the rights.

“Like Calcutta, the Kochi franchise has also become a high-profile one with the presence of Sachin Tendulkar,” a source claimed.

“It was finally settled for something between Rs 35 to 37 crores. There was another bidder, who had Mohun Bagan as technical partners. But they lost in the end.”

Tendulkar won the bid for the Kochi franchise, along with PVP Ventures. PVP Ventures also owns Hyderabad Hotshots in the Indian Badminton League (IBL).

From the initial 30 bidders, 12 remained in the final leg. Like Shah Rukh, Abhishek Bachchan, too, lost out.

It was reported that Abhishek was interested in the Bangalore franchise, which finally went to Sun Group, the owners of IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Delhi will be owned by Sameer Manchanda-headed Den Networks. Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot has formed a consortium with businessman Dattaraj Salgaocar and Dempo owner Shrinivas Dempo to bag the rights for the Goa team.

The bid document had two parts. The first part dealt with the financial aspects, giving details of how the bidder will work on development of the franchise.

The second part was about developing the game at the grassroot level and building of infrastructure.

The franchise owners are likely to finalise the names of their respective teams in the next few days.

However, despite all the hype, no clear picture has yet emerged on the recruitment of foreign players.

The organisers have already made it clear that the success of the league would depend on the overseas stars as each team would be allowed to recruit eight to 10 foreigners.

It was learnt that each team will have one marquee player.

They will most probably be recently-retired top players like Michael Owen, Dwight Yorke, Thierry Henry and Luis Figo.

“Our aim is to take football to a higher level in India,” said one of the organisers. “Some of the leading footballers from other continents would be roped in to make it a success.”

However, there are fears that a successful ISL could jeopardise the I League, which has been struggling to get spectators’ attention for the last few seasons.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials, however, assured that the I-League would remain the official championships for the Indian clubs.