One of IPL's biggest rivalries off the field is all set to be back in a new avatar. Round two of the Sourav Ganguly versus Shah Rukh Khan could soon be back, though this time in football. Sources have told CNN-IBN that both Ganguly and SRK will be bidding for the Kolkata franchise of the city-based football league, the Indian Super League (ISL). Sources close to the development have also told CNN-IBN that both Ganguly and King Khan have picked up the tenders and will go all the way to secure ownership of the Kolkata franchise that will surely be their top preference.
The Sourav-SRK saga has been entertaining fodder for cricket watchers since the time Sourav was the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) skipper, an IPL franchise co-owned by Shah Rukh. The media buzz surrounding KKR reached fever pitch when Sourav was axed as skipper in 2009 by coach John Buchanan, who brought in the multiple-captain theory. While Sourav went on to later play for another IPL franchise (Pune Warriors India), the game between KKR and Pune was billed as the Sourav vs SRK clash.
Both Sourav and SRK have in the past debunked reports that they don't see eye-to-eye, but this time around it seems neither will yield an inch to the other as they try and bid successfully for the Kolkata franchise in the ISL. While the base price for each team has been set at Rs. 120 crore for a 10-year franchise ownership contract, Sourav, who is said to be backed by a corporate, and Shah Rukh will certainly try to outdo each other when they submit the bids.
Interestingly, CNN-IBN has also learnt that both the former Indian captain and the Bollywood badshah are keen to associate with Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, and have separately sounded out the two clubs about getting them on board for their ISL franchise. But Kolkata's status as the mecca of Indian football seems to be justified even in terms of franchise-styled leagues, with CNN-IBN learning that three national brands are also in the fray to bid for the franchise.
And that's not all. CNN-IBN has also learnt that former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar is also eyeing a football team in the ISL. Sources say sports marketing firm PMG, owned by Gavaskar, has picked up tender documents from IMG-Reliance and will be putting in a bid, with an eye on building a football brand. PMG is believed to have zeroed in on its choice of preferred cities.
CNN-IBN has learnt that another IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals has also picked up tender documents and are extremely keen to secure ownership of the Guwahati franchise. The choice of Guwahati reflects the Royals' philosophy in the IPL, when they picked a low-priced city and then built up the brand as one of the IPL's most talked about success stories.
A host of film actors have also shown interest to jump onto the franchise football bandwagon, and it won't be a surprise to see celebrity owners, much akin the IPL, owning teams in the league. CNN-IBN has learnt that actor Ranbir Kapoor, a football enthusiast himself, has picked up the tenders, and is likely to submit an individual bid. Among others, John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan are also believed to be keen on the opportunity, and could bid through their respective consortiums.
Earlier today, the Economic Times had reported that media enterpreneur Ronnie Screwvala had also picked up tender documents to buy a team in the ISL.
IMG-Reliance have invited bids for nine cities - Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa, Pune, Guwahati, Kochi, Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi - of which eight cities will be selected. The catch, though, seems to be two stringent clauses that prospective bidders must comply with to stand a good chance.
While financial stability of bidders will be screened, CNN-IBN has learnt that all bidders eager to own a franchise must present a proper plan for a grass-root development programme in the city they bid for. E&Y have been entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating the bid documents and the winning franchises will be announced in the first week of April 2014.