Former India cricket captains Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly bagged the franchisee rights for Kochi and Kolkata while Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor, Salman Khan and John Abraham bought Mumbai, Pune and Guwahati in the eight-team based inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) football.
The promoters of ISL IMG-Reliance, while announcing the owners of the eight city franchises, said that the Indian Premier League (IPL) style tournament has taken its first major leap in its bid to revolutionise Indian football.
The two-month tournament that will see some yesteryear international stars playing with Indian footballers will be held in September-November this year.
The remaining three cities to make the cut are Delhi, Bangalore and Goa. While Delhi will be solely owned by Sameer Manchanda-headed Den Cable Network, Bangalore was bagged by Sun Group, which also owns IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad. The winning bidders paid a franchise fee ranging between Rs.12 crore to Rs.15 crore annually for 10 years.
Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot has formed a consortium with businessman Dattaraj Salgaocar and Dempo owner Shrinivas Dempo to bag the rights for Goa.
Dempo is the most successful I-League team while Dattaraj is the brother of Shivanand Salgaocar, who owns former I-League champions Salgaocar. Dattaraj is also the brother-in-law of Reliance boss Mukesh Ambani.
Ganguly too has formed a consortium with West Bengal's leading industrialists Harsh Neotia of Ambuja Neotia Group, Sanjeev Goenka of RPG Group, stock broker Utsav Parekh and top Spanish club Atletico Madrid to clinch the franchise rights for Kolkata.
Tendulkar and PVP Ventures, which owns Indian Badminton League (IBL) inaugural champions Hyderabad Hotshots, have together clinched Kochi while actor-producer John Abraham has tied up with I-League outfit Shillong Lajong for Guwahati.
Ranbir and Mumbai's leading investment banker Bimal Parekh, who manages celebrities like Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif, have got the Mumbai franchise while Salman Khan bagged Pune along with Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group.
"Today's announcement is the culmination of several years of hard work and strategic planning. We are enormously pleased at the level of interest the creation of the ISL has generated," said Michael Dolan, chairman and chief executive of IMG and chairman of IMG-R.
"We believe the league signals the beginning of a new era in the development of football in India and, in the future, will be the source of great pride for the people of India."