India to host SAFF Club Champions League

NEW DELHI: The first ever bi-annual South Asia Football Federation (SAFF) Clubs Championship will be held in India from September 1 to 15, the Member Associations (MAs) of SAFF decided here today, at a seminar organised jointly by SAFF, AIFF and India’s biggest industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry..

Also decided was that it will be held every second edition in this country, which SAFF’s sole marketing agency World Sports Group said is the biggest market for football in the eight-country formation under the aegis of the Asian Football Confederation.

This means that the 2015 SAFF Clubs Championship will be held here, and in between, as in 2013, it will be held in any other member country excepting India and Bangladesh.

During the presentation from WSG by Ian Mathie, he had reiterated the point that football marketers have been insisting on at almost every for a: the dates for such events have to be fixed in advance, so that there is ample time for them to get sponsorships.

Keeping this in mind, it was decided that the date for the bi-annual tournament will remain September 1 to 15 for the years in which the tournament will be played.

There was some discussion on whether all the MAs would agree to this or not, since countries like Maldives have a strong professional club tournament and their dates might clash with the September timeline set today.

Barring Maldives all the MAs agreed t accept that date, though Maldives has not said No to this.

Let the event start, was the general agreement of all present at the seminar held in one of FICCI’s auditoriums.

However, SAFF General Secretary added one more conditionality in aid of better marketing prospects: the bidding countries must from the next edition (that is, of 2013) will have to specify the city and the stadia in which they propose to hold the tournament, so that these cities and stadia be checked out by the SAFF for playing conditions, floodlighting, facilities, etc., all of which are vital for deliverables that can be offered to the sponsors.

Meanwhile, Nepal has agreed to host the 2012 Under 16 SAFF tournament, though there was some discussion on the cost factor.

It has been decided that for the MAs wanting to host the U-16s, they themselves would have to bear the costs. The Nepal delegation head Ganesh Thapa has said it would scout the market and send a proposal for the minimum cost at which they can host the event.

Nepal also made out a case that the 2013 Clubs Championship be held there as had been announced. They said that in the previous meeting, it had been announced that Nepal would host the tournament, and consequently the MA there had made announcements in their national media accordingly. To be told No now would be embarrassing, to say the least.

SAFF President Kazi Salauddin and General Secretary Alberto Colaco assured that they would finalise Nepal’s name but just after consultation with the sponsors.

The discussion on the women’s SAFF tournament concluded with the reiteration that it is of utmost importance to continue the event, despite financial hardships. Sri Lankan Manilal Fernando, AFC Vice President and FIFA Development Officer said that his country would host it anyway.

“If no other country comes forward then I will host the event. If I find sponsors, that will be fine. Otherwise my own company will finance the event,” Fernando said to much applause.

All India Football Federation CEO Kushal Das had earlier mooted a Under-13 football festival. The proposal has been cleared, especially after Das clarified that a major insurance company wants to reach out to the parents of children for insurance sales for the latter and is very keen that the event takes place.