English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion are in talks with some leading Indian companies after their current sponsor decided to pull the plug in the wake of striker Nicolas Anelka's controversial racism-linked goal celebration in an EPL match.
Albion, a mid-table EPL side, will have to find a new sponsor after London-based property company 'Zoopla' decided not to renew their two-year USD 3 million sponsorship deal which runs till the end of current season over Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture which some say is an inverted Nazi salute and has anti-Semitic connotations.
Albion Sales and Marketing Director Adrian Wright said at the sidelines of an event here that he would meet some top corporates in the country for a possible deal for the main sponsor of the club.
"We are going to meet some top corporate houses in India which have shown interest in becoming a sponsor. It's in a preliminary stage but if an Indian company becomes our sponsor it would be a great development for us. We are going to meet them before we fly out in Saturday," Wright said.
"If it happens the name of an Indian company will be seen for the first time on the jersey of an EPL club during Premier League matches," he said after the launch of its 'Pass It Forward' grassroot international coaching programme in India.
It is learnt that the corporates Albion are going to meet include Airtel, Reliance, Tata and JCB and the meetings have been arranged through the FICCI and CII.
A meeting with Reliance company assumes significance as Albion are reportedly interested in buying a franchisee of Indian Super League proposed to be organised by IMG-Reliance in September.
West Bromwich may be interested in having an Indian company as main sponsor as it has a large Asian population in its surroundings. West Bromwich town is located just a few kilometres from Birmingham, which is Britain's one of the most Asian populated cities.
Wright even went to the extent of saying that the first team of West Bromwich Albion may plan to play exhibition matches in India in the coming years.
"I am surprised that such a beautiful stadium (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium) has not been used much for football matches. I know Bayern Munich played here (in Bhaichung Bhuitia's farewell match in 2012) but the current pitch is not good for top-class football. I am told a new pitch will be laid. If that is done, our first team may play here in near future," Wright said.
Under its 'Pass It Forward' programme, Albion would send FA (Football Association of England) qualified coaches to train Indian youngsters from all walks of life, including from the deprived sections of society. The club also plans to hold a Youth Football League and Street Football Leagues in India.
Albion have joined forces with Youth Football International, a coaching organisation based here.
"'Pass it Forward' coaching sessions will be held at schools and in some of New Delhi's most deprived areas during the week-long trip. Under the programme, we will send coaches to India to train youngsters six times a year," Wright said.
"It is a long-term programme for five-six years initially. In each trip, the coaching programme will be conducted from seven to 10 days. We will come back in March and then may be in August or September. We will not come in peak summer months," he said.
"We don't have any international coaching programme in other countries. This is the only one we have outside UK. We want to have a long-term relationship with Indian football."
Gareth Conte of the YFI said promising players from among the selected Indian youngsters will be trained at the academy in West Bromwich Albion.
"Our coaching approach will be different. Around 30 per cent of youngsters will be from among deprived sections of society. We want to bring changes in their lives through football. The best among the youngsters will be trained in our academy. Who knows some of them may play for India in 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup which India is hosting," Conte said.
He said the club also plans to spread out in other Indian cities later on.
"As of now, our focus is in New Delhi. But we are hoping that in the next five-six years, we want to spread out in around 50 Indian towns and cities. We want to help in raising the profile of Indian football," he said.