The introduction of long-term contracts for players is a welcome change, thanks to ISL clubs.

Bengaluru FC on Wednesday announced that Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has signed a five-year contract extension with the club. The deal has been one of the many deals that Indian Super League clubs are extending out to their prized possessions. Indian football has, finally, turned a positive leaf.

With a proper contract system, clubs are certain to make profits in the long run. In 2017, after the Indian Super League draft, I-league club Shillong Lajong FC had earned Rs. 1.47 crore after selling its youngsters. The kind of investment done by Mr. Larsing Ming, the owner of the club, had set a blue-print for Indian clubs to follow, but sadly, they did not. The clubs continued to work with contracts that existed for a small span of time and smaller futuristic vision.

Clubs may think that Indian players may grow callous during the off-season and this is exactly where the medical and physical tests come in. Every contract must have a clause of physical conditioning followed by a detailed test before the start of the pre-season. If a player fails to meet the required standards, the club’s free to let the player go, without paying a fine. In case the test report is objectionable, the player should be allowed to have a medical test of a similar standard somewhere else, to prove any fallacy on the club’s part.

The test, outside the club, should also be helpful if the player moves court and there should be a legal guideline with the Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI), who will have more controlling power. Football is about players, and players should be the operators and not the other way round.

Sandhu, Bheke, Juanan, Paartalu and many others have signed new contracts with Bengaluru FC

With detailed and long-term contracts, clubs are expected to make money. Enough money to survive, sign talents and groom them. Clubs all across the world work on this principle. Southampton is seen as the breeding ground for Liverpool and a lot of English heavyweights, Monaco is the talent hub for France, primarily, and Europe at the moment while clubs like Athletic Bilbao and Schalke rake in handsome money by selling their talents all year round. The add-ons are wonderful, in some cases. The players’ agents, in this case, have a role to play.

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If Anthony Martial, the French winger-forward, ever wins the Ballon D’or (World Player of the Year now), Manchester United will pay a few millions to Monaco, a club that bought the French youngster for peanuts. That’s smart investment. Indian clubs need to do the same. They need to hand out strong contracts to players, like Bengaluru FC did to Edu Garcia and earned smartly by selling him off to Zhejiang Lucheng, a Chinese Super League club for an undisclosed fee. That’s investment, and on top of that, a smart one. The contracts add motivation to the player, who takes responsibility for the club and knows that officials believe in him. 

If football in India expects to become a stable industry, more money should be inculcated in the process of contracts and India, for once, must become westernized. Injuries are part of the game and will happen, but the fear of overheads should not subside the idea of earning from spotting a raw talent and selling players. If this practice works once, clubs will search for hidden talents, and that’ll help young footballers get a chance to showcase their abilities. A benefit to Indian football. A massive one.

Bengaluru FC, and the few other ISL clubs who’ve started handing out contracts, are setting the right example. This is the future, and in the right direction. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will and should try to go beyond the borders again after the Asian Cup 2019, but will know he’s secure back home if a trail does not work. That security is important for players, for players who’re representing the nation.