Sunday, October 20, 2013

DSK Shivajians FC – Liverpool Football Club Partnership: From Concept to Reality

I’m proud to share that last week our Libero Sports team announced a major partnership between our client DSK Group and Liverpool Football Club.  Through this partnership, a residential Academy will be established at the DSK Supinfocomm campus in Pune where hundreds of the top Indian footballers will live and train under the guidance of coaches from Liverpool Football Club.

This partnership announcement was a monumental moment for our organization and for football in India.  Libero Sports benefitted as the international and domestic media attention given to this announcement helped to establish our organization’s credibility and expertise in facilitating relationships between top global football entities and Indian businesses.  Indian football benefitted from this partnership as for the first time in history, an international club is partnering with an Indian outfit with the intention to set up a full time Academy vs. pay to play Soccer Schools  model which is the typical outcome of these tie ups.  Not that Soccer Schools are wrong, it’s just that I strongly believe that a bigger impact can come through an Academy than short term camps. 

While sitting in Gurgaon now with a cold beer in front of me enjoying the fruits of my team’s labor, it’s easy to forget the work which went into turning this concept of a full-time premier league club branded residential academy into a reality.  It all actually started about a year ago. We hired a new resource, Abhishek, to work in our player representation department. This individual happened to be from Pune and was a close friend of DSK Group Managing Director Shirish Kulkarni.  Abhishek soon introduced the rest of our Player Representation team to Shirish and within a short time Libero Sports was hired to support DSK Shivajians FC with putting together a club that can compete in the I-League 2nd division. 

Soon after the tournament concluded Libero Sports Managing Director, Sukhvinder Singh, had a long chat with Shirish about the club’s future.  During that conversation, the idea of establishing a residential Academy rather than investing in an I-League 1st division club was discussed and Libero Sports was given the green light to explore potential partnerships for the planned Academy

That’s when our Consulting team took over. We analyzed various international club options and then shortlisted a few of them. Post that, we facilitated meetings in Europe with FC Bayern Munich, Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC.  Once the first round of meetings took place, it was quite clear that Shirish was interested in the Liverpool FC option as he not only respected their youth development philosophy, he also happens to be a massive supporter of the club.

Once the club was decided, the real work for me and my team began.  The next 6 months were spent in meetings and site visits in the UK, meetings in India, long discussions with lawyers and tax specialists on the agreement and then finally planning for the press conference.  There were many moments when the potential for this actually happening looked strong and others when I was sure it would fall through as there were so many moving parts in the UK and India which had to align for this to happen.  Each email and phone call over the past few months typically turned out to be another section of the 6 month roller coaster ride which finally culminated at the Marriott in Pune where we announced the landmark partnership in front of 33 members of the media in a conference room designed like the historic Anfield Stadium where LFC plays its home matches.

This partnership is truly special for myself, my entire organization and the Indian football industry and I’m looking forward to building the Academy with one of the best clubs in the world…


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