NEW DELHI: The third edition of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), which starts on July 25, will see four teams getting new owners. The total number of teams will remain six. The Kotak Group’s Insurekot Sports, which also runs Pro Kabaddi franchisee Puneri Paltan, will replace DHFL-owned Maharashtra United while Ronnie Screwvala’s USports will replace Warriors TTC. Chennai will get a new team — Chennai Lions as they replace Falcons TTC. The interesting change is the entry of Dempo group of companies.
Dempo group has contributed richly to Indian football. Dempo SC, formerly a part of the I-League, had won five titles while the company also co-owned ISL franchise FC Goa. They have decided to buy 90 per cent stake in Empowerji Challengers which will be rechristened Goa Challengers.
With so many owners leaving, what made Dempo take the plunge? “It’s a very popular sport in Goa. Being a family which has always supported sports, we thought we should go for it. It is not a very investment-intensive sport so it was not that big a risk as maybe running a football outfit. The payback period for table tennis is much shorter as the initial investment is less and if the league hits the right chords, sponsorship won’t be an issue. We are in for the long haul and three-five years is the going to be the break-even period,” Dempo chairman Shrinivas Dempo said.
The competition has been held in Mumbai and Chennai, an advantage for teams from the regions. Local fans being able to see it live leads to added sponsors coming in while promotions also become easier. With the league set to be restricted to Delhi this time, the new franchise plans to use social media to drum up support. “Earlier, television and live audience used to be the way forward. But with the advent of social media, things have changed. We are yet to fully finalise our marketing details, but social media will play a huge role. We have already received encouragement from a number of sponsors.”
The organisers remain bullish about the league’s prospects despite so many dropouts. “We still have two franchises reposing their faith in us, the RP-SG group with RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata and the DO IT Sports Management group with Dabang Delhi TTC. who are the reigning champions. New teams coming in despite other owners backing out only goes on to further strengthen our resolve,” said Hiren Mody, UTT vice-president.