Football viewership in India has always been big. But only in recent times have we seen international clubs keen on tapping the playing potential. English club Bolton Wanderers is now the latest in this list. In partnership with OCE Professional Education, it is now offering 10-day camps for children in the age group 9-23 at Bolton with the long term view of granting scholarships for year long programmes. The Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside was in the city, outlining his plans for the same.
We have been offering similar programs in other countries for ten years. For India, we feel this is the right time. It has got a huge number of people with interest in football. It has traditionally been cricket, but we now see interest in football grow too.
What can they expect in Bolton?
Through OCE we are proposing to encourage students to enjoy football with the benefit of having some education attached to it. Fifty to sixty per cent of the time it will be football. In addition we will teach them life skills, professionalism, diet, nutrition etc. It’s about how to be a professional athlete as much as it is about playing football.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea are the most popular clubs here. Where does Bolton fit in?
We can’t obviously compete with them. We hope to do something unique by clubbing it with education. Education is a big part of producing a footballer. Like how to make a decision and when to make it and so on. Everybody thinks they too can play football. But being a professional one is the biggest challenge.
On your fight against the big money divide within the premiership and between the premiership and the championship:
It [the divide] has worsened. The amount of money you lose when relegated is unbridgeable. You can’t possibly prevent four or five teams dominating a league and garnering more revenues. But the rest of the competition has got to be balanced.
So will parachute payments help?
I don’t believe in it. If you consider the three teams which got money last year, two of them didn’t get promoted (Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers) and the other even got relegated further (Wolverhampton Wolves). So for me it’s not working.