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Football is regaining its lost glory

               2018 FIFA World Cup is galloping towards its climax with all its anxiety, thrill, pomp and splendor.

Nielsen Sports recently took a tour into its data in unfolding new views about football as a sport. There are many sports in the world, for example, cricket which is a heart throb of millions around the world. India , Pakistan, Srilanka etc has wide fanfare for cricket. It has billion dollar business evolving around it and is a favorite sport of corporate companies. The logic is simple; the game stretches many hours and even days if it is a test match. The corporate companies get ample time to promote their products as sponsorship or as prime time advertisement to cricket geeks glued to the TV. It has done its damage already, too much popularity and glamour associated with the game has attracted many youths to it thereby many sports like football and hockey which was deep rooted in India, Pakistan etc lost its importance, sheen and glory which they had garnered in the past.

When we take cricket as a game, physical involvement is less compared to games like football, hockey or other games. When two players are involved in  game, the rest is watching or  waiting for their chance to perform.. In cricket, activity growth of personality is subjective but in football, Kabadi and other items, group involvement via personality, social evolution will happen in players and viewers. Cricket stars and viewers (Cricket society) - evolve consciousness similar to corporates – gain oriented.  Body language, style, culture, financial benefit, stardom, structure of the game, duration, viewers addiction – everything  leads corporates as cricket favorites. Whereas in football it is different.  All the players are physically, mentally and socially  involved in the game at a time, beyond barriers.

Nielsen Sports survey of 18 major markets revealed that interest in football is rising more than 40%. This is a great mileage for Television media; it leads to increase in viewership and commensurate rights fees. Brands are investing more on to associate with football’s blue-chip properties. Sponsorship is widely accepted in the game.   

Data shows that football is topping the chart with 40% more respondents going for “interested” or “very interested” in the sport. According to data, in 2017 football garnered 43% votes and the number comes to 736 million people across the surveyed markets. Basketball comes second with 36% or 626 million. At the bottom rugby caught the interest of 12% (207 million) in 2017.

Generally during the period, interest in football and other sports showed a steady increase. In China too, it showed steady rise in interest, in 2013 it was 27% and it became 32% in 2017. A 15% increase was marked in India – 30% to 45 %, and in the US it showed an increase from 28% to 32%.

There was an increase in female fans too. Football has become the most popular sport among them according to the survey. 31% expressed their interest across the 18 markets in 2017. Basketball comes second with 28%, track and field athletics (26%) and tennis (25 %).

The impact of football is felt in Middle East too. There is big influence of the game in the small population of United Arab Emirates. It was the result of “some solid investments by local governments and companies. 80% of the population showed interest in the game and it comes around 3.2 million people. Around 78% showed interest in the sport in Thailand. Spain, Turkey and Portugal lead the list of European Nations.

In India for quite some time cricket has been domination the sports scene. Media has been giving too much importance to cricket and it lead to the weakening of other sports like hockey and football. Now football is regaining its lost glory.  Football league matches with corporate sponsorship are been rolled out to make a reawakening of the game.

President Xi Jinping’s personal interest in the game has started showing results in China. There is a boom and it is evident in sports industry.

Social media is playing an important role in giving extra mileage to sports stars and celebrities. Football players have

star value globally and they dominate Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Instagram has been rated as the best platform for personal brand-building. It accounts vast majority of engagements across platforms. Ronaldo has the most number of followers. It comes around 322 million across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

There are also some negative aspects too. It seems that the sport is over-commercial. Almost 57% of the people interested in football agree that companies involved in sponsorship are able to entice people to their products.

FIFA’s 2015-2016 cycle revenue according to expectation will be more than twice the revenue of 1999-2002 cycle. In 2010, sponsorship income garnered $ 25 million and in 2014 it reached $ 49 million.

Football as a game is growing and has a huge reach. Nothing can be compared to it.  It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its problems which include corruption, poor governance, fan violence, racism and more.

There is big competition from other sports and there is threat from entertainment. With the adoption of league matches sports is adopting entertainment aspects too. There are tremendous opportunities in this field right now, but we should learn to bank on it.                                            Bonnie Basil