AFI mulls big ticket franchise-based athletics league

New Delhi: Aimed at raising the profile of track and field sports in the country, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is mulling on launching an ambitious big prize money franchised-based league, which will have Olympic and world champions.

The AFI Executive Committee, in its recent meeting, discussed the possibility of starting a cash-rich competition to be named Indian Athletics League (IAL), with a sports management firm presenting a blueprint.

Though the finer details are yet to be finalised, the proposed IAL will be a franchised-based competition on the lines of Indian Premier League and Indian Badminton League. It will also have some similarities with the prestigious 14-leg Diamond League Series organised by the world governing body IAAF each year.

AFI Executive Committee took the decision to hold the proposed IAL in the first half of August if the sponsors and necessary funds are available. The sports management firm has been tasked to find the corporate sponsors.

A top source in the AFI told PTI that the budget for the proposed league would be pegged at around 100 crore and some of the big international stars, including Olympic and world champions, would be invited.

"It's early stages now. We discussed the feasibility of the league in the Executive Committee meeting as we want to raise the profile of athletics in the country. We decided that if the necessary funds and the sponsors are coming, then we can hold the league in August," the source said.

"If our plans materialise and corporates are willing to come forward, then it will be a big ticket event which can be as big as any leagues around in the country and outside," he added.

He also said there will be eight to 10 franchise sides based in different cities across the country and each team will have eight men and eight women, with top international stars in them.

"We have to decide on the number of city-based franchise teams and the number of international stars. Each franchise teams (men and women) will have eight athletes. Either two or three of them will be international stars and the rest the Indians. There will be bidding for franchises and national and international athletes," the source said.

The league will have be a series of competitions in each city where the franchises are based and each event will last three to four hours. The winners of the events in each city will get big prize money.

"We are yet to decide on the number events for men and women. But each series in a particular city, say New Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai will last three to four hours. Each winner, second and third place finishers will get big money. We will decide on the amount of prize money later on," he said.

He said the Indian Grand Prix events have been scrapped from this season's calendar to make a window for this proposed IAL. The calendar provides for a window of August 1 to 15 for the proposed league.

Few top international track and field stars have come to India. In 1989, a galaxy of international stars, including sprint legend Carl Lewis, legendary 1500m runner Said Aouita of Morocco, took part in the Nehru Centenary Athletics Meet hosted by AFI.

A pony-tailed Lewis was beaten to second spot by unheralded Andreas Berger of Austria in 100m dash in front of a huge crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here.

Asked about the proposed league, AFI President Adille Sumariwala said, "We discussed it but we have to decide on the format and other details. We want to start a league but depends on the money available. We hope to get the funds and sponsors and then take a decision."

Commonwealth Games gold medallist discus thrower Krishna Poonia said that the proposed league if materialised will be a big boost for Indian athletics.

"We have seen the impact of IPL on cricket and of IBL on badminton or HIL on hockey. So if IAL happens, it will be a real big boost for the track and field athletes. It will help them financially also," she said.

( Source : PTI )
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