Fifa considers India “the next nut to crack” in terms of football’s sporting and commercial development in Asia, the confederation’s chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h has said.
Le Floc’h, speaking on Tuesday in Singapore at sports and entertainment industry conference All That Matters, said: “In China we are pretty comfortable, we know the market well, we have a lot of people, we have some Chinese partners. India will obviously be the next nut to crack.”
He added: “Everyone sees India as a cricket country, which it is, but it’s such a big country there’s space for other sports.”
Fifa is aiming to secure an Indian brand as a sponsor for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, having tried without success to do so for last year’s World Cup in Russia.
Le Floc’h said Fifa was working well with the All India Football Federation and its president Praful Patel on the sport’s development, but that the country’s domestic leagues and clubs must take the lead in developing young players and future stars: “The federations can do everything they can, and we support them, but the guys that are in daily contact with the players are the clubs and leagues. The leagues have to give a chance to young players.”
He said there were lessons to learn from China, where the emphasis at clubs had switched from heavy spending on overseas stars to developing young talent, and Japan, which adopted a 20-year strategy to improve the level of its football.
Le Floc’h said the 2017 under-17 Fifa World Cup in India had proved the size and maturity of the local football fanbase: “We went to places like Goa, Hyderabad, Calcutta, and they’re just crazy about football. We played the final, England and Spain, with 65,000 people in Calcutta Stadium. In the morning at breakfast we were discussing with the waiters about football, and these guys knew football.”
It was announced recently that sports marketing executive Simon Thomas, is set to replace Philippe Le Floc’h as chief commercial officer at Fifa.