7 Sept 2011

Liverpool FC in India: Has the new academy been set up for players or profits...? (Guest Post)

Liverpool FC has recently opened a football academy in New Delhi, India. Guest writer Bharat Kapur, who works in grassroots Indian football, looks at the club's motives, and ponders whether the Academy has been set up to nurture players or profits.

A few weeks ago, the Times of India announced that Liverpool was planning to open a football academy in the New Okhla Industrial Development Area (NOIDA) of New Delhi. I was taken aback by the news but not really surprised as I firmly believe that India possesses a talent pool of footballers to rival any country in the world. In football terms, India is a rough diamond just waiting to be polished, and the potential is arguably there for football to surpass the popularity of cricket.

As someone involved with the development of grassroots football in India (and specifically New Delhi), I have a slight conflict of interest. I am a massive LFC supporter but at the same time I work with a small start-up company, developing soccer schools and promoting development camps for Indian footballers.

The question that concerns me is this – Is Liverpool coming to India to genuinely nurture talent and develop the game in the sub continent, or is the club primarily trying to appease its fan base and make money out of one of the world’s largest populations?

Having been around Indian football for some time now, I can safely state that it is only private organizations and specific individuals that want to see us progress in the sport. The government based organizations are all corrupt and just want to make a quick buck, and the infrastructure of Indian football is crumbling. Basically, the whole thing is a shambles.

Having said that, with money being pumped into grassroots development from private investors and organizations, India is a potential goldmine, and thankfully, there is finally light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Steve McMahon –after whom the new academy is named - has said that he envisions enrolment of around 500+ kids in the first few months of operations. The money the club would make from that is peanuts compared to income from other operations; and for a brand like LFC, with the kind of pull the club has all over the world, that figure could actually be achieved in a much shorter time frame, and without the time, effort and expense required to set-up and run an academy.

The club definitely wants to reach out to the fans in this part of the world as they are potentially a huge revenue stream (via merchandise; ticket sales; tour matches; endorsements etc), but revenue and loyalty from fans aside, the club clearly realises that there is only one way for Indian football to go at this stage, and that is UP, and now is the right time to get involved.

If Indian football can generate even half of the money brought in by cricket, it could theoretically become the richest football league in the world in five to ten years. That is not an exaggeration – it is arguably the true economic reality of the league’s potential. Liverpool FC can see this, and is taking steps to gain a foothold in the Indian football industry.

Yes, it is about appeasing the fan base to a degree, but from my experience in the industry, I truly believe that the club is genuinely interested in nurturing talented Indian footballers.

Liverpool has clearly realised that in twenty to forty years, India will become a super power in Football, and in my own small way, I will do my best to contribute to making that happen.

Who knows - one day I may even live to see India compete at the World Cup Finals, which would be a dream come true.

Bharat Kapur


  1. liverpool lfc is also a business, would you object to other companies investing in your country whilst at the same time having an agenda to make profit? doubt it as we all know both can be acheived without detrriment.
    there are obvious benefits to India by having LFC involvment, nothing comes for free in life even if LFC intentions are honourable.

  2. Hi Bharat,
    My son is quite a good footballer and I have considered him going to coach in India, which I think possesses a huge pool of talent.  In some ways it is similar to China which is also being developed by clubs such as Man. U.No club would do this for purely altruistic purposes, there has to be some return and I suspect LFC are looking to tap India both as a source of potential players and revenue.If India can get behind football in a similar way it has done with cricket and develop a competitive league, perhaps with guest players from Europe, the potential will be enormous.  I don't see this happening though, without a great effort, for perhaps 10 or 15 years.Good luck.J

  3. Good or Bad, you need a start somewhere. At least we should be happy that LFC is now in your country. This will bring tremendous publicity to the sport. There's enormous potential in India - both business and sport.

    By the way have you seen the media frenzy and fan madness when Messi came to Calcutta last week for Argentina - he had to use an "emergency" exit to get out of the airport. That was awesome. Well if LFC comes for an Asian tour in 2 years time, maybe you'll see something similar or even better. 

    Like Jo there'll be lots pf parents sending their wards down.  The costs of living and accommodation will be very affordable to all of them but the training given to the kids will be LFC quality. That's the most important.

    On a personal level, being from Mauritius, i can only see this move as a forward one. as a  piece of that prestigious club is coming closer to us.

  4. I should hope the club are trying to both nuture players AND make profit...

  5. Dear Mr. Kapur: 

    Good to read your blog and learn of your work in promoting soccer in India.Any plans that you know of for Liverpool or other clubs Barcelona, Man U etc. to open an academy in Pune?  What academies or coaches are there currently there for U11, U12 boys? 

    I hope the Liverpool venture is not just a money spinner but fosters a passion of the sport through nurturing and supporting young players.

    All the best,
    Mary Sen