In what could make a world of difference to the fortunes of basketball in India, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has forged a partnership with the USA's premier professional men's basketball league, NBA.
"The NBA is going to help us promote the game in India," said Harish Sharma, the secretary general of the BFI. Under the partnership, the NBA is also looking at a player exchange initiative which will help the Indian players gain international exposure and enhance their skills.
The federation hopes the partnership to fall in place by the end of September. "The idea is to have a league of our own," said Sharma.
The BFI is currently in talks with Indian companies for sponsorship opportunities and is also exploring possibilities to tie-up with television production houses to produce a telecast package. "The talks are in progress but I can't divulge any details at this point of time. I will be able to give a better picture by the end of September," said Sharma.
The Federation is devising different formats for the game to increase viewership interest. "We are looking at the possibility of coming up with city-based teams and are devising a home and away format. The underlying theme of all our initiatives will be to increase the popularity of the game," explained Sharma.
The federation is reluctant to reveal the investments and sponsorship packages that are being looked at. However, sports management companies are willing to give basketball a chance. "Basketball would surely figure in the top five list for non-cricket sports in India," says Anirban Das Blah, vice president, of sports management firm, Globosport.
However, the money flowing into basketball at present is expected to be extremely low. While an estimated Rs 1,200 crore flows into cricket every year, taking all rights and ad expenses into consideration, the next sport is football, where earnings are estimated at just Rs 100 crore in India, followed by a paltry Rs 80 crore in tennis.