With the Premier League’s top four clubs emptying vast sums of money from their deep pockets into the Indian market, many people are asking whether or not this popular motion will soon be classed as the new Indian slave trade.
Back in March, Coventry Conversations explored the exploitation of African footballers and their treatment on foreign soil. This topic can be shared with Indian footballers hoping to make their dreams come true and play in what is widely regarded as the greatest football league in the world.
At the beginning of this week, Liverpool Football Club followed in the footsteps of their closest rivals – Manchester United and Arsenal – by opening a new soccer academy in the Indian city of Pune which will offer support to young footballers in that region.
However, it is only recently that Premier League clubs have succeeded in taking advantage of the huge benefits which have arisen from a surge in the game’s popularity in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.
The Premier League was created in 1992 and was initially broadcast in 27 countries, but by 2012 it will be screened in just over 210 nations. The rights for the 2002 FIFA World Cup were sold to India for $3million and in 2012 that will have increased to $40million.
One of the biggest footballers to come out of East Asia is Manchester United’s Ju Suing Park who shares the same ‘David Beckham style treatment’ back in his home nation of South Korea. The midfielder started his playing career with Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan and has gone on to become one of the most recognised people in his country since his move to the three time European Champions.
Park’s sudden rise to fame since his move to one of England’s dominant clubs is a perfect example of how people in countries like East Asia and India will always have an interest in the English Premier League, a factor professor Simon Chadwick feels is due to a “colonial link” between the two countries.
“The population is a pre-disposition towards sport,” said Chadwick. “I think there’s a kind of latent demand in India for football, so whilst Indian people are not particularly interested in their own domestic league, there is immense interest in football generally in India, particularly in the big global mega brands like Manchester United.”
“The general overall standard of Indian Football is not comparable with many European Leagues and I think with external investment from organisations like Liverpool and Manchester United, that will steadily improve. If that helps to raise the standard of the game and of the sport in India, I can imagine that in 5-10 years time you will start to see Indian players come to Europe and play for some of the bigger teams.“