The Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is the first men's professional American football league in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. When play begins in late 2012, there will be eight teams located in various cities across India, one in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and one in Pakistan. The EFLI will be South Asia's first professional American football league, and its launch is backed by both the Government of India and the Sports Authority of India.
Founding of the EFLI
The EFLI was founded in mid-2011 and publicly announced on August 5, 2011. The aim of the league is to introduce American football to the Indian market and its large consumer base. The organization's management team consists of both American and Indian business and entertainment executives as well as several American sports figures. American brand marketing consultant Sunday Zeller is noted as the main founder.
Prominent investors include former Green Bay Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar, Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Ditka, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin and former NFL quarterbacks Ron Jaworski and Kurt Warner. Both Ditka and Irvin are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Chillar is of Indian descent. Investors outside of the sports community include American actor and entertainment producer Mark Wahlberg.
The EFLI will not be the first attempt to establish a professional American football league outside of the USA. NFL Europe was established in 1991, although NFL Europe eventually folded. Officials from the NFL have also expressed the possibility of starting a franchise in the United Kingdom, citing the popularity of the NFL's periodic exhibition games in London. Additionally, American football leagues exist throughout Europe, South Korea, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, and many other countries. Cricket enjoys dominating popularity in the country, but the domestic Indian Premier League and the proposed EFLI seasons do not overlap; IPL matches generally begin in April, and EFLI games are slated to commence in November and end in February.
The first regular season games are scheduled to begin in September 2012. Games will be broadcasted on television in India and Sri Lanka, as well as in the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, and Pakistan on Ten Sports. This will represent a potential audience of over 500 million viewers