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RIL, IMG launch JV to build professional sports biz

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

To develop sports talent; also nurture soccer and basketball leagues.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries and US-based sports marketing company IMG Worldwide have joined hands to build a professional sports business in India. The equal joint venture between the two would also manage entertainment businesses.

The new company, IMG Reliance, would set up sports facilities across the country to train athletes, thus developing the sports market. The model would be similar to the one followed in mature sports and entertainment markets such as the US. The plan to create and operate major sports and entertainment assets.

Mukesh AmbaniMukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries, said: "Development of sports and the sporting culture is a social imperative for India in the 21st century. World-class infrastructure, frugal engineering, technology and scientific coaching are an integral part of development of today's sporting talent globally."

Around 80 percent of the population is less than 50 years of age, a majority of this being youth less than 25 years of age. Various estimates suggest 35 per cent of the population is below the age of 15 years.

The US-based company already owns sports academies in Bradenton, Florida. Until the Indian centre is operational, the venture would give fully-paid scholarships to 20 people at a time, to train at the Florida academy.

IMG Reliance, according to The Wall Street Journal, would develop professional soccer and basketball leagues in India, as well as nurture athletic talent through its academy. There are plans to run programmes for coaches, too.

Plans are underway to create an agency to offer 360-degree sports management to celebrities from the world of sports, Bollywood and fashion. IMG would transfer its existing business and assets in the country to the joint venture. These include the Aircel Chennai Open, the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour event and Lakmé Fashion Week.

However, the ongoing Indian Premier League would stay with IMG and the company's international business and executive team is to manage it.

Ted Forstmann, chairman and CEO of IMG, said: "The performance of Indian athletes on the national and international stage will improve dramatically with the correct development strategies. As a consequence, the commercial performance of sport and entertainment in India will be enhanced."

Nita Ambani, member on the board of IMG Reliance, said: "I am excited about the comprehensive relationship with IMG which will seek to unlock the potential of young India at a global platform."

First Published: Mon, March 15 2010. 00:31 IST