Monday, June 4, 2012

Shah Rukh to promote football

If SRK does buy 50 per cent stakes in a football club, will we see the cricket craze shifting to football? TOI explores
It's hardly been a week since the IPL 5 ended, and already the media and social networking worlds are buzzing with sports talk. But this time, the focus of conversations has shifted to football from cricket. The reason? Reports of Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of IPL Team Kolkata, mulling over picking up shares in Goa-based Dempo Sports Club. One of the most successful football clubs in India, Dempo SC has five I-League titles to its name.

Everyone saw, took note of and passed comments on the craze that surrounded the cricket league because of the presence of B-Town celebs. So, if King Khan does sign the deal, will sports enthusiasts and his fans make a beeline for football matches? Raj Kundra, hubby of Shilpa Shetty and co-owner of IPL Team Rajasthan, had previously used the Bollywood element in the Super Fight League. "And, Lalit Modi had introduced Bollywood in the IPL. Of course, sports needs celebrities because Bollywood sells in this country more than any other industry," Raj says. Mention the boost that football might get if SRK purchases stakes in the football club, and Raj says, "I'm 100 per cent sure there will be an immediate craze for the sport then. If Shah Rukh has the time to dedicate to the club and promote football, then it will definitely grab eyeballs."

Dempo SC is very keen on the deal. "It will help the sport overall if it goes through," says Custodio Almeida, manager of the club. "If someone like SRK takes an interest in football, then other stars too will follow suit. IPL has so many Bollywood stars and the matches pull in such large crowds. So, if Bollywood enters football, then the craze will be quite like the IPL," he adds.
Armando Colaco, secretary and head coach of the sports club, says the main reason behind the talks with SRK is to get crowds to football games. "He's a great crowd puller. If he comes to the matches, so will people. That's the main reason we want him," he says. "Football is a world famous game. Earlier, parents would dissuade their kids from playing it but now it is a business and the players earn good money. We want more youngsters to come in," he adds. Armando hopes that if all goes well and SRK comes on board, then other clubs will approach other actors. "Football will really benefit from this. We hope all goes well. SRK has done something great for Kolkata, so why not football in Goa?" he says.

The Pune Football Club (PFC), which has been in the top five in the I-League, too is open to Bollywood presence. Chirag Tanna, head operation, PFC, says, "I don't think anyone would oppose Bollywood presence in our club. Talks about SRK's deal with Dempo SC is very positive for football but whether it turns around things for the sport only time will tell. Cricket takes away attention because we are really good at it. So a well-promoted, strong domestic league would help football." While Raj agrees that Bollywood sells, he points out that the sport cannot sustain on that. "We have to make sure the sport is interesting enough and that people understand it. Cricket is played in every corner, but football is still restricted to the bigger cities," he says. He owns a cricket team so will he venture into football in the near future? "I looked at football three years ago but found that there are cobwebs in the way deals are structured. Until they don't sort out the I-League properly, I don't think anyone will make a profit. It needs to be mapped and monetised well, only then we can get into it," he says.

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