Jamshedpur FC CEO Mukul Choudhari enumerates how the club is combating COVID-19 challenges, preparation for the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) in Goa, women’s football among other things in an interview with The Playknow. Excerpts:
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the business model of the team? How are you tackling all the challenges?
Like everyone, we have had to adjust to the new normal. More stringent guidelines for safety of the players and health protocols to be followed. Lack of fan power is affecting gate-receipts and Jamshedpur has one of the highest attendances. We are unable to utilise our own training facilities and accommodation due to league in one venue which is causing extra expenditure. Budgeting for players has also been affected to an extent.
You reckon the decision to hold ISL in Goa is a good decision? We have seen what happened in Dubai with CSK. Has the club planned any precautionary measures?
Even with the best of precautions, COVID is something that cannot be completely controlled, especially in India. The recovery time of the COVID patients is encouraging to see and hopefully we will win the battle soon too. As a club, we are taking maximum precautions and utilising ISL Safety guidelines to the best extent. The players and staff themselves are too taking maximum responsibility and precaution which is a positive sign. Club themselves have laid down some protocols and regulations, which if broken, leads to fines. This is to ensure a strict policy to follow guidelines set by ISL and the club.
Tell us about your recent partnerships. Do you plan to focus on inclusion of female footballers within the set up?
We are working with Jamshedpur Football Association (JFA) and Jamshedpur Sporting Association (JSA) on women’s football in Jharkhand. We conducted JSA women’s league last year. We have further plans to kick start more leagues across various age groups. We earlier saw 90 girls participating in Jamshedpur FC Football Schools Programme and many more in rural areas with the technical partnership with Tata Steel Foundation.
Atlético de Madrid are also playing a major role in development of young talent. COVID has made us halt our youth development activities, but they are in constant touch with us as we plan to resume our Academy and Grassroots Programme once allowed to do so.
There are currently a lot of conjectures about the club’s partnership with Atletico Madrid. What is the current status?
It’s the same as always. We have our partnership with Atletico for our youth development program particularly with TFA Which continues.
What is the current marketing/branding strategy of the club? What kinds of brands do you target to associate with? What does your current roster of sponsors look like?
This season, we are focusing more on digital and broadcast for our marketing plans. COVID has been a deterrent for sports sponsorships, especially for sports other than cricket. However, as the market slowly revives, things are getting better.
Please tell us about the digital strategy of the club.
We want to ensure that fans stay connected with us even though we are thousands of kilometers away in Goa. We are ensuring we make the fans a part of the experience that the first team is having. From their quarantine to their training, each and every aspect is being covered.
We will also dive into the players experiences and lives to make the fans know the squad and thereby also the club better. Also, while first team will be the center of attention this season, we will also be trying to digitally keep engaging our Grassroots Football Schools kids via digital platforms.
Mental health is something we Indians are not known to focus on particularly. However, how important do you reckon it is and are sufficient steps being taken to raise awareness not just within players but the entire management?
Absolutely, mental health cannot be taken lightly. We are ensuring our players and staff keep communicating with each other and most importantly in the most transparent manner. We already have a closely knit squad and we share our happiness and problems which is a good way to bond.
Also, vía Tata Steel we are hosting digital seminars with the help of our sports psychologists at the High Performance Center to help everyone understand the importance of mental health with our young athletes and over 3000 soccer schools cadets.