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We will help Chennaiyin FC develop strategy at academy level: Sam Jeffery

The commercial director of Norwich City Football Club talks about why India is an important destination for the UK club, and what it will take to strengthen the culture of football in the country

Published: Apr 29, 2024 02:59:20 PM IST
Updated: Apr 29, 2024 04:08:34 PM IST

We will help Chennaiyin FC develop strategy at academy level: Sam JefferySam Jeffery, Commercial Director, Norwich City FC. Image: Courtesy Norwich City FC
UK club Norwich City FC recently partnered with Indian Super League (ISL) side Chennaiyin FC recently. The delegation from Norwich City FC explored the diverse verticals of the club. From observing senior and young team training sessions to visiting one of the soccer schools in Chennai, their engagements ended in victory of Chennayin FC over Jamshedpur FC at the Marina Arena. Sam Jeffery, commercial director of Norwich City FC, gave more details to Forbes India. Edited excerpts:

Q. Why is India an important destination for the club?
India has the fastest growing sports economy in the world and is a country of untapped potential in this sphere. There is clear opportunity to grow in the market based on the volume play—there are so many sports fans who want to consume sport and content on their phones, and importantly, football is the most supported sport for under-25s.

Partnering with a club of the prestige of Chennaiyin FC will allow an entry into the territory in a collaborative way with a clear strategy to help develop Chennaiyin from a footballing perspective, particularly at academy level, whilst also unlocking commercial growth for Norwich City.

Q. What is your marketing and branding strategy with regards to India?
It’s best summarised by a phrase that Chennaiyin’s head of marketing, Neel Jayaramakrishnan, introduced us to: Glocalisation. A global project but with a local strategy. So we’ll be respectfully growing our presence in Chennai and the wider Tamil Nadu region, with authentic activations, local initiatives that can help youngsters grow their love of football, improve on the strong foundations Chennaiyin has made in youth development and provide future stars the opportunities to develop.

Q. Unlike Europe, India has a long way to go to have a football culture. How can this be improved in the country?
Our academy manager, Joe Shulberg, who formed part of the travelling group to Chennai in April was enthused by the potential to grow the footballing culture in Chennai and beyond. It was obvious that the passion for football is rife in Chennai, and that the demand is certainly there to increase the engagement in the sport.

There are three key areas to focus on in the worldwide game, that is worth considering when looking to grow the culture for the game further in India—opportunity, provision and esteem. Putting clear structures in place that create a pathway to professional football will support breaking barriers for young players’ opportunity to play the game.

Provision is a focus on the infrastructure in place to be able to play the game and making the most of and developing the resources that allow for higher quality, mass engagement. Finally, to increase esteem, there has to be an admiration for what the game can provide the wider community, including role modelling of players that can show the pathway. If people can see it, and have the opportunity to do it, then people can be inspired by football being far more than just a game.

Also read: 'Maybe in the future we will play a game here too'

Q.What has been your outtake of the ISL?

There is no doubt that the ISL is well-resourced to continue growing the competitiveness of the league. There is high potential for the league. Historically, there was more of a push to bring in international talent, as opposed to developing the domestic potential. This is clearly at the heart of the vision now, ensuring there is a balance of both, but ensuring more attention to the development of the domestic football eco-system allows for greater foundations of talent to build on. Again, the passion is vibrant, and will only go from strength to strength.

We will help Chennaiyin FC develop strategy at academy level: Sam JefferyA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Ekansh Gupta, Vice President of Chennaiyin FC (left) and Sam Jeffery, Commercial Director at Norwich City FC. Image: Courtesy Norwich City FC

Q. Tell us about your recent partnership with Chennaiyin FC
It’s a partnership built on mutual benefits. For Norwich City, we’ll be providing our expertise to help Chennaiyin grow their youth development programmes, assist on solidifying a footballing DNA, providing consultation on nutrition, recovery, analysis, and opening up opportunities for future stars to participate in life-changing experiences. For example, Chennaiyin FC U-13s have been invited to participate in Norwich City’s prestigious Academy tournament in October, where they’re have the opportunity to play against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Chelsea.

And this leads into the benefits for Norwich City. This tournament will be streamed to the vast audiences in Chennai and across India at a very nominal cost, which we hope will provide major exposure in the territory and unlock revenue growth. Given the viewing figures that Chennaiyin and the ISL commands, we’re hopeful that this should generate big interest. Furthermore, our clubs are in latter stage discussions around Chennaiyin hosting their pre-season at Norwich City’s training ground, which will culminate in a marquee exhibition match between our teams, which will again be streamed back to the Indian audience.

The partnership has been initially slated for three years, giving both sides a significant amount of time to explore all the potential opportunities. If it plays out as both clubs hope, then this is a partnership that could grow and grow.

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