Club owner: "In Delhi, you could swing a dead cat. Nobody would ever know who you were. You could scream: Delhi Dynamos! Delhi what? It was a slow march of death"

4 February 2021

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Photo: Indian Super League Rohan Sharma is working hard to build a sustainable club in India. The project has led him to the state of Odisha where the fans have welcomed him and the team.

Owner of Odisha FC, Rohan Sharma, started off in New Dehli but struggled to create enthusiasm for the team in the capital. He then moved the club 1.700 kilometres south east.

The club is about to enter a new phase of the strategy. “…phase two is engaging a lot of the NRIs (non-resident Indians), who miss India, who left in the 60s or 70s like my father and never really came back. This is the way to see the team grow.”

Rohan Sharma is working closely with the local government who provides Odisha FC with all sort of support – from rent-free stadium to helping out on academy-development.

New President, with experience from Glasgow Rangers and Watford, has been brought in to develop the business.

Clubs are still loosing money in Indian football, but Sharma is not worried and says that it took the MLS two decades before they were established. 

Samindra Kunti contact@offthepitch.com

Rohan Sharma chuckles when he is asked the million-dollar question that worries and exhausts franchise owners in the Indian Super League (ISL): When will clubs break even?

His Odisha FC, like the majority of clubs in the 11-team league, incur losses year on year. It doesn't augur well for the ISL’s long-term financial stability. The league, in its seventh iteration, set a target for clubs to balance the books by the 10th season. “It is a good dream,” says Sharma in a Zoom interview from his home in Dubai.

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