Steve McMahon is heading a private venture bringing Liverpool’s brand to India and opening football academies in five different venues in India by 2012. The academies will bear his name and come under the auspices of the official LFC academy.
India along with China represent the biggest developing markets for football and Liverpool and Man Utd have been in the forefront to realize their potential for expanding their presence and profitability. Utd with its biggest fan base in Asia have announced plans to go public in the Singapore stock exchange to raise $1b in cash.
Liverpool’s entry into India is a far more calibrated approach balancing the concerns of average Indian football fans to see a long term investment in developing the sport in their country with the economic bottomline. The club has ambitions to get their Stanley Park ambitions back on track and write off bank debts dragging down its profitability.
“This is not about the money, this is about me giving something back to the game,” said McMahon, who is partnering with Liverpool and Indian real estate developer Carnoustie Management Pvt. in creating the schools. “The English Premier League should have been here a long time ago, we are here finally walking the walk.”
The first academy will open in NOIDA which is minutes from New Delhi and McMahon envisions opening three other centres in Delhi and the NCR region. North East and East India will then follow in about a year. The expansion will be complete with centres opening in Mumbai, Goa and South India in the next 18 months. The target demographic is the burgeoning middle class who have lots of liquid cash and can obviously afford the fees to train their children. It’s too early to say whether this is looked on as any more than piano lessons, learning French, or a way of keeping them out of trouble.
European giants Bayern Munich have also expressed an interest in opening a soccer academy in West Bengal near Kolkata. Blackburn Rover’s Indian owners are also contemplating opening a similar school in Pune.
It’s reflective of the nascent interest in the sport in India long starved off institutional support and now relying on the private sector to fill that lacuna. Hopefully Liverpool’s presence represents translates into real gains. The club should open up opportunities for Indian youngsters to play in their senior teams because only exposure to international standards will bring commensurate improvement in the Indian national team’s fortunes. McMahon sees that happening:
“We expect about 500 children in each location and that is what we want, more the better. Our aim is to build small blocks and then move around the country. We are also hoping to send children from here to Liverpool FC and maybe, they will play for the club and other big European teams.”
Carnoustie Management Pvt Ltd manages the Lions, an international polo team and they have also been active in promoting adventure sports in India. Their real estate ventures include developing office and retail spaces, hotels, spas, and golf courses.