DELHI DYNAMOS F.C COME TO WEST BROMWICH ALBION.
In The City Magazine catch-up with the eloquent Prashant Agarwal, the pride’s president to find out more about The Lions, collaborations and the changing face of Indian football
Tell our readers a little about yourself I don’t know where to start, I’m probably the youngest president in Asian football and I was born in Mumbai in a business orientated family. My family moved to London 18-19 years ago, we started with the scrap metal business, today we are into renewal energy, real estate and various other ventures. Dynamo’s is a venture which started in 2014 since the inception of the Indian Super League and I am privileged and I feel blessed that at the age of 36 I am the President of the club. I am very passionate about football.
It would seem football is your passion?
Yes very, very passionate, I played football for my district as well as my estate in India.
Were you any good?!
Yes, I was very good (laughs) but when I was young, at that time, there were no major platforms in India for football. Back then Indian families didn’t see football as a potential career, they saw cricket, getting into the family business or become an engineer or adoctor. So I decided to go my own way and I travelled – today I speak eleven languages.
So how did it start off with Delhi Dynamo’s, how did all that come about?
2014 was pretty much the inception of the Indian Super League. I have always been greatly attracted to football and did my Masters in Football Administration. I went over to Philadelphia for a couple of years to work on the NFL to understand firstly how the world of sports works. Through the NFL I was working with The Bureau Bank of America, they also had Barclays as one of the partners. I then came back home to London and through Barclays I got involved with the premier league. This is when Richard Scudamore and David Cameron organised a trip to India to go ahead and do the Barclays Asian Premier league – that is where it all started.
How many teams are they?
There are 8 teams in the Indian super league and we are the only club in the entire North of India, our football club has a catchment area of 500 million people.
Do you know how many fans you have? How do you gauge that?
Although it is quite difficult to gauge, in just a period of 3 years we have managed to gain 800,000 fans on Facebook, our Twitter account is in excess of 60,000.
How do they get to watch the games, is it freely available?
Yes it is freely available in India, through Star Sports which is owned by SKY sports. It is broadcasted worldwide as well as here in the UK too. Since the inception of the ISL in 2014 to today, the Indian super league is the world’s 3rd biggest league in terms of average stadium attendance.
How did your relationship with West Bromwich Albion come to pass?
West Bromwich Albion already had a partnership with Air India, we had interactions with them in India and that was the beginning of everything. After 2014 when the Indian Super League was established, we went ahead and partnered with the Premier League so we do content sharing and promote each other in our respected Countries and Worldwide. Through the premier league we started interacting with West Brom football club, we said that if the Premier League and Indian Super League can be partners then why can’t we further cluster together and promote and help each other. Since then we have started promoting each other at our home stadiums and we have gone ahead and done some massive investments on the grass roots. We have already launched 20 soccer schools; we have one residential set-up coming up next year. We have developed a second home stadium with a capacity of 66,000 which is 50% open as of now and we will slowly scale up. We have constructed in partnership with West Brom one more football stadium which is the only football stadium in India with a capacity of 35,000 and it has a residential set-up of 400 kids with 14 football pitches so this is all going live from next year. In addition to this we have now gone ahead and adopted the Durand Cup which happens to be India’s oldest grass roots football tournament. It has existed since 1956 and believe it or not there are 40,000 teams participating in this tournament all across India. Last year Pele was the brand ambassador, when you want to do something different in today’s world you need strong figures, you need strong investment.
When people think of sport and India, they generally think Cricket…
We might be a club from India and people might say that in today’s world we are about cricket but India has a legacy of footballers as well. I mean our father of the nation, Ghandi – he started his non-violence movement by starting football clubs in 1904 in South Africa in Johannesburg. That’s how the idea of non-violence came to him but he didn’t know how to implement it so he started 3 football clubs and he named those 3 clubs as passive resistors.
On that note is there anything that you would like to say to the UK followers of the Deli Dynamos?
We want people to believe in us and give us whatever support and love they can give, without that no one can survive. Having said that we are very proud firstly because we are the first Indian team to ever come to the UK and play against a Premiere League team and that’s a huge step. We know there is a big Indian community that have been rooting for us. We have 1.3 million people cheering us on back home and we want to see the same over here!