The Odisha FC president also revealed that he has spoken to multiple interested British companies to invest at the club.
After their poor performances last season, Odisha FC would hope for better things in the upcoming campaign. The Indian Super League club from Bhubaneswar has gone through a massive personnel change, both on and off the pitch. Among those changes was the appointment of Raj Athwal as the new President of Odisha FC during the last season.
Under Athwal’s leadership, the Juggernauts have undergone multiple changes in a bid to turn around the club’s fortunes from the last two seasons. The Odisha FC President recently joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast. He sat down with host Ashish Negi for a candid conversation. In the first two parts of the interaction, Raj Athwal spoke on Odisha’s partnership with Watford and also the impact of ISL on Indian football.
Athwal, who has formerly been with Rangers and Premier League club Watford among other European outfits, comes with vast experience. He discussed the commercial side of running a football club and explained the challenges of heading a football club in India:
Challenging to get sponsors
The President of Odisha FC stated how it was much harder to attract sponsors for football clubs in India compared to the UK, where football is among the most-watched sports.
“I think every club will accept that they could do more commercially. Compared to the UK where football is the No.1 sport, you don’t have a problem with sponsorships and partnerships. It’s really the value that you are prepared to sell it at, irrespective of what league you are in. In India it is more challenging,” voiced Athwal. “Whilst we have a lot of support from the government and I say that genuinely, without their support it would be difficult certainly for Odisha.”
He further added, “The values in India, comparably, I can’t compare it to the UK because it’s totally different. I can only compare it to cricket and perhaps it’s not in the same level for various reasons. However, football is gaining exponentially, especially at the grassroots levels.”
More support from private companies
The former Watford commercial director pointed out that more investment is required from the private companies in India for football to grow in the country.
“Why we are not getting more support as football clubs from India, from the companies in India? Football is a global industry. We have an opportunity in India to grow football,” he expressed his concern. “At grassroots levels it’s huge. I was shocked and you’d say why are you shocked? Because it is the first time I have actually set foot in India. Boys and girls want to play the game. They love British football, they love football around the world. I just feel that if we get support from companies in India, we can take it to another level. We really can,” added the Odisha headhoncho.
“We have got a commercial manager on the table and I am already talking to British companies, who are looking to come into Odisha and you will see that in the coming weeks. It would be great if we could engage with the companies in India and they would give us the opportunities,” claimed Raj Athwal. “Of course, I want it for Odisha Football Club, but for other Indian football clubs as well. We can take Indian football to another level, I genuinely believe this,” he concluded.