EPL may be "swept away" by Indian football on Zee

Indian television broadcaster, Zee Sports, wants to check the following of English football in the country by making Indian football more popular, a top official of the channel told Press Trust of India. "We want youngsters in the country to follow the Indian clubs which will help in creating brand value for the teams as well as the league and Indian football in general," Chief Operating Officer of Zee Sports, Gary Lovejoy, said. "I see youngsters in malls sporting Chelsea and Manchester United T-shirts. However, it would be great if we have such support for Indian clubs," he said.

In 2006 Zee commenced a 10-year broadcast contract with the All India Football Federation and Lovejoy claimed matches from the National Football League, Santosh Trophy and Federation Cup already generated higher Television Rating Points (TRPs) than English Premier League matches telecast in the same time slot. "The nationwide figures, and those in Kolkata in particular, show that Indian football has a large viewership in the country. We cannot expect other parts of India to match Kolkata in that regard, but if they show even half of that, EPL will be swept away in this country. Chelsea don't need the money (from sale of merchandise). So Indians should be supporting Indian football," he said.

Refering to Ten Sports, in which his channel has a major stake, now telecasting Indian football in the Middle East and Hong Kong, Lovejoy added "It is good that we are now exporting our football."

Hoever Varun Gupta of The Hindustan Times was not impresed with the "rosy picture" picture presented in a year when India's FIFA ranking slipped from 126 to 157. He claimed the "entire pantomime was repeated once again by the AIFF mandarins" at the launch of the 11th edition of the NFL, "with the president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi acting as a virtuoso conductor of a willing orchestra". The only important announcements on infrastructure, environment and results provided at the meeting, he wrote, was “'After the first four rounds, we (the NFL committee) will sit down with the clubs and assess the performance of the referees and if the need is felt, we can go for foreign referees for some of the matches with more spectator interest' and 'FIFA president Sepp Blatter will visit India in the first quarter of the year', but that was it."

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