Before moving to India, Athwal worked with many big clubs including Premier League side Watford.

Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Odisha FC had a season to forget in the previous season. The club underwent a massive overhaul both on and off the pitch in hopes of a better display. One of the changes saw the appointment of Raj Athwal as the new president of the club.

Raj Athwal comes with a huge reputation having been formerly associated with the likes of Premier League club Watford FC and Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers.

The Odisha FC president joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast recently with host Ashish Negi and had a candid conversation. The duo discussed Athwal’s life and career where the former Commercial Director of Watford FC expressed his struggles and triumphs in British football. He also shared his experiences of being an Asian origin in the British football scene.

The Beginning

Odisha FC’s President Raj Athwal on ISL, partnership with Watford FC, Indian Football and more

Raj Athwal, now a reputed name, talks about how it all started, how he got into football and decided to make a career out of it.

“I am a huge football fan. I have been going to watch Coventry City since I was a young kid. Football at that time, especially for Asians in England was difficult. Your parents didn’t want you to go because of the racism that existed in the 80s. Let’s not hide away from it. It existed. But I went with friends and I was fine and never had any issues. I grew up as a huge football fan. I played a lot of football for school teams, university teams,” Athwal began.

“It was fortunate. My brother wrote a letter to Bryan Richardson. At that time I was struggling to find a suitable role not in football just generally when I graduated. The economy was not the best at that time. The Chairman asked to see me. We wrote to him asking just to see him for advice. I took my resume with me, I sat there and I just sold myself to him,” he added.

“I actually said this; I said I will make you millions, just give me a chance. Two weeks later they took me on as a sales executive and that’s how my career started and I never looked back.”

Watford and Glasgow Rangers

Raj Athwal also shared his experience of working with Watford and Glasgow Rangers, two big teams in Great Britain.

“I went to Watford as commercial director. I spent just over four seasons there with Sean Dyche who I know very well and is now at Burnley. Watford was interested because it was a club that just got relegated from the premiership yet off the pitch and on the pitch it was still growing. So we helped device a strategy to build the club up on both fronts, commercially as well. On the pitch I was more of a peripheral person, to be honest,” he said.

“After Watford, Glasgow Rangers contacted me and they had just been demoted at this point. So I went there looking to start the whole setup from scratch because they had lost a lot of goodwill from customers because of the demotion. They went from the Premier League to the bottom-tier league.

“That same season I joined, we had 46000 season ticket holders, we were sold out every game playing at the low end. We built the club up on and off the pitch. Ally McCoist was the manager at the time and his charisma brought the club through. It was great football. Won two-three titles successively. That was a great time for myself as well working at one of the most successful clubs in the world,” Raj Athwal added.

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