Friday, August 1, 2008

India at the 2010 World Cup

Here's another one that slipped by unnoticed.

It's old news now, but Indian IT giants Satyam have signed up as a FIFA World Cup Sponsor for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Confirmation of this is also available on Satyam's website.

Some excerpts from the press release available on FIFA's website below:
  • This historic agreement awards Satyam global rights for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa, the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil and the two FIFA Confederations Cups which fall within the 2007-2014 period.
  • As the Official IT Services Provider to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, Satyam, which already enjoys a business relationship with FIFA, will play a crucial role in developing the core IT event management system for FIFA and its service partner for IT, accommodation and hospitality - MATCH AG, as well as local organising committees during the next seven years.
  • Satyam is the fourth company - after Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's and MTN - to join the proposed six-member FIFA World Cup Sponsor line-up under FIFA's commercial hierarchy, which comprises six FIFA Partners, six FIFA World Cup Sponsors and six National Supporters.

It is both pleasing and strange to become aware of this. Pleasing to see that an Indian company is investing significantly in football and strange because I am not aware of Satyam being a sponsor for any sports event or personality prior to this.

To satisfy my curiosity I have done a quick lookup of Satyam's website and find that they are involved in a number of social and community programs, but none related to sports. They have also sponsored a number of events with the closest association with sports being an animation and gaming event in January 2007. But nothing strange about it really since such a patronage would have been directly in line with their cyber-cafe and other online businesses.

While I understand that Satyam will be looking at be benefits on a global scale through this association and they do not seem to have anything significant to gain by adopting similar strategies in India, I would be very interested in knowing the strategic thinking behind this deal.

It is unrealistic though to expect them to start pumping money to change the face of Indian football. For one, what is in it for them and can the people who run football in this country show them enough value? Secondly, can sponsoring Indian events guarantee them that the funds are used properly and to deliver good events? Given the track record of all Indian football events, it is hardly likely that a company which associates its name with the glamour of a World Cup would like to have much to do with the shoddiness of the I-League or Santosh Trophy or anything similar.

Having said that I would still like to believe that the people at Satyam could be encouraged to look at other avenues of associating with the game, especially as their commitment to FIFA is a long term one. Maybe a good proposal for sending Indian boys on long term training program to some of the major clubs with associated benefits in case any of the player's makes the cut and ends up performing on big stages. Maybe a performance-linked sponsorship plan for the Indian national team for a set of annual matches against good global opposition or a joint training program etc.

Will any of this happen? I haven't seen anything to suggest that the AIFF have been involved in the World Cup deal or have identified Satyam as possible backers of the sport. I doubt if they are doing it all in the background and going about their business quietly. I would believe that it would be up to some enterprising private companies in the business of football or up to the powers that be at Satyam to see if they want a larger association with the beautiful game. Money or software, anything would be welcome!

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