India's Premier Football competition the National Football League (NFL) gets underway in less than 10 days and football's governing body in India, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has come up with the goods at the very last moment. For the second time in its nine-year history, the NFL will be sponsored by a public sector company, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) for Rs 7 crore. This has given a renewed sense of optimism that this year's NFL season could be the breakthrough year for Indian football. Renewed optimism
2000-2001: No Title Sponsor
1999-2000: Coca-Cola (Half The Season)
The Rs 7 crore that ONGC has given will be used for the 1st & 2nd Divisions and the 9th NFL season will be known as the ONGC Cup. Match fees for victorious teams in the NFL have been raised from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 and it will be made compulsory for all NFL teams to have a certified medical doctor to ascertain the fitness of the players. Foreign imports will also be disallowed in the 2nd Division in an effort to give local talent a boost. And while being a minister in power certainly has its advantages, the question will always arise as to why the AIFF fails to rope in MNCs into the game. After all, 6 of the 8 NFL Seasons till date were sponsored by such companies. "I think ONGC in some ways is an MNC. The other private companies are coming as co-sponsors and few will be title sponsors in other events, you watch and see how much I bring, I can only tell you that the number of boards that you see in a cricket match of various companies, possibly if I remain alive it will not be less than that this year," said Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, President, AIFF. New ground The new season will kick off on January 12 when defending Champions East Bengal play their Kolkata rivals Mohun Bagan. The proceeds from that game and one more NFL game will be donated towards the Cristiano Junior memorial. "In this years NFL, we are making a three-point specific departure. We are increasing the financial support to the clubs, we are strengthening the medical support with more money and thirdly we are introducing the official 2nd division in a manner of promotion and relegation so that the league structure is complete, these are the three special dimensions of the NFL," added Dasmunsi. But while ONGC will be the second public sector unit to sponsor the National Football League after the oil and public sector units did in 2002-2003, the question once again arises as to why the AIFF fails to attract MNCs.