Indian football, riding high on the mega bucks and euphoria generated by the upcoming Premier League Soccer, Monday threw a challenge to cricket with a top PLS official saying the fare to be dished out by the proposed tournament would eclipse cricket's cash-rich Indian Premier League.
The dates of the two tourneys are clashing at a time when cricket is seemingly going through a crisis after dwindling crowd attendance and poor performances by the national team, which has also lost its sponsor Sahara.
On the other hand, the PLS has already grossed over Rs.100 crore in franchisee and foreign player auctions.
"Looking at the current situation, the IPL bosses should be more concerned about the PLS. I can say, through PLS, football is throwing a challenge at cricket," Indian Football Association (IFA) secretary Utpal Ganguly told mediapersons here, days after Sahara India terminated its 11-year-old multi-million dollar sponsorship of Team India and also walked out of the Pune franchise of the IPL.
IFA, the governing body of the game in West Bengal, is co-organising the PLS in association with the Celebrity Management Group.
The PLS is tentatively slated to be played in six cities of the state, tentatively between March 4 and May 6, with six franchisees. IPL is scheduled to be held April 4-May 27.
The PLS, which has lined up 35 matches and a total prize purse of Rs.1.50 crore, has already drawn industrial houses and former greats in international football after
Six industrial houses have already shelled out over Rs.70 crore for buying the six franchisees - Kolkata, Howrah, Barasat, Durgapur, Haldia and Siliguri - at the first ever auction in the history of the game last month.
Later, players like Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Robert Pires were lapped up by the franchisees for astronomical prices at another auction.
The Barasat franchise has roped in former Argentine and Chelsea midfielder Hernan Crespo with the highest price of $840,000, legendary Italian stopperback Fabio Cannavaro and Bolivian Marco Etcheverry were sold to the Siliguri franchise for $830,000 and $200,000 respectively.
Former France international Robert Pires has been sold to Howrah franchise for $800,000, while the Kolkata franchise brought ex-England and Liverpool star Robie Fowler for $530,000 and also purchased former English football manager Peter Reid as their coach for $200,000.
The Durgapur franchise has bought Nigerian Jay Jay Okocha for $550,000 along with Samson Siasia as their coach at $210,000.
"The tournament has already generated immense interest across the soccer world. We are receiving queries and interview requests from across the globe. Together, we will change the face of the game in the country," said Ganguly.
Celebrity Management Group executive director Bhaswar Goswami said leading international broadcasters are lining up for the television rights.
The franchisees also exuded confidence of making it a niche event and said they have big plans including taking in brand ambassadors which they would make public in the coming days.