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Pre-season friendlies: Sports ministry sets sights on hosting Premier League clubs in India

The U-17 FIFA World Cup, which is all set to begin in October, could end up bringing up much more than just India's first FIFA event. As hosts, the tournament has led to massive improvements in the footballing infrastructure and facilities in the country and the sports ministry wants to cash in on these developments.

Representational Image. ISL

Representational Image. ISL

According to a report in The Indian Express, sports secretary Injeti Srinivas interacted with Premier League's international relations manager Tim Vine during his recent visit to the UK in July and talked about the possibility of hosting top English clubs in India.

"A number of states have shown keen interest in hosting Premier League matches," Srinivas said. He also added that though the government would not help in conducting the matches, they will encourage the promoters to organise the Premier League clubs' India tours.

The pre-season matches are planned in advance and take place in June-July before the commencement of the new season. The Premier League clubs have made it a point to explore untapped markets. Almost all the English clubs have played at least one overseas match. Arsenal and Chelsea began the 2017/18 season in Beijing, while Manchester United visited United States to prepare for the upcoming season.

The factors behind finalising a a pre-season destination are mostly commercial. India is one of the biggest markets and the power of its television viewership is no secret. However, India's poor infrastructure held back the Premier League clubs from travelling to the country in the preceding years.

However, this might change in the future as as many as six stadiums have been revamped for the U-17 World Cup and infrastructure should not be an obstacle anymore.

"India has a huge fan base, so this opportunity can be used to promote the sport further. Also, because of the Under-17 World Cup, our stadiums and training facilities have improved. So we can put them to good use," Srinivas said.

The report adds that Srinivas also met Nick Tofiluk, the director of UK's Gambling Commission, as the sports ministry plans on legalising online sports betting and is working on laying the groundwork currently.

Updated Date: Aug 02, 2017 13:09 PM

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