Banswara based Islands United Football Club aims towards Building a sustainable model for smaller teams

A club based out of one of the most underprivileged and underdeveloped districts of the country – Banswara, where there is not even a Railway station is dreaming big to enter the Indian Football ecosystem through unique measures of crowdfunding.

Islands United Football Club recently participated in the Rajasthan State Men’s League, fourth division of Indian football system. Run by some of the meritorious graduates of foreign universities, these football passionates are discovering new ways to make football clubs business sustainable in India.

After 8 years of patience and perseverance, Islands United Football Club got an opportunity to play the Fourth Division of Indian Football System, the Rajasthan State Men’s League A Division 2021 (R League) last month. It was fascinating to know that only 8 clubs fulfilled the criteria set by the Rajasthan Football Association out of which 5 clubs were based in Jaipur (the capital of Rajasthan). IUFC was among the 3 non-Jaipur based football clubs along with Vedanta Group’s multimillion dollar CSR project, Zinc Academy based in Udaipur and defending champions, JECRC FC (rebranded to Rajasthan United Football Club) based in Bhilwara. Hailing from Banswara, one of the most underprivileged districts of Rajasthan and competing against the clubs with immense resources and greater pool of talented players, their campaign was destined to face challenges both on and off the field. Yet, the players believed everything is going to be all right. Below is how the club encountered both the challenges.

Challenge #1 – Funding the campaign

The initial estimation for the total budget of the entire campaign was INR 300,000 (including added expenses due to bio bubble venue). It looked impossible to arrange sponsors in such a short time. Hence, the management staff and players themselves decided to contribute according to their spending capacities to fulfil their dreams of playing an AIFF official league. There was a psychological aspect involved in this strategy as well. As players contributed, they were even more motivated to perform and play better. Secondly, the club started a crowdfunding campaign. In a span of just 10 days, they accumulated almost INR 60,000 from 36 supporters based throughout India and abroad. Thirdly, kind gesture from drkamlesh.com to become their sleeves sponsor provided just enough thrust to ensure the participation.

Challenge #2 – Fielding a competitive squad

Due to COVID and last-minute injuries to the major players, IUFC were forced to recruit some players to field a competitive squad for the league. Giving priority to the future of Indian football and footballers in India, the management team decided to sign young (under 20) players who prefer experience and exposure over extravagant salaries. Another reason to select youngsters was that they are relatively easy to manage and always eager to learn new things. In a condensed time, the club launched a recruitment drive and asked interested players to fill up a Google form. Their marketing campaign accompanied with support from major football related social media platforms like sportik, IFTWC and footballcounter, they were able to generate a database of over 1000 players. Then they shortlisted players based on their playing positions, experience, and availability. Shortlisted players were recruited based on scout reports and open trials.

Competition results

All the matches of the league were telecasted live with commentary on the official YouTube and Facebook channels of Sportscast India. The team performed exceptionally in 5 matches out of total 7. In the opening fixture, they took a 1-0 lead in the first half against a team that was playing a division higher last season, Rajasthan Perfect FC (formally called as AU Rajasthan FC). However, IUFC lost the match 2-1 with a debatable penalty decision by the referee in the last two minutes of the match. In the third match lost 1-0 to Neerja Modi FA, former champions of The Amateur League (TAL). In their fifth game against Zinc Academy, the team played a very disciplined and competitive game, yet succumbed to 2-1 loss against the eventual champions. The last game was against Royal FC, a team comprising the best players of the state (including some Santosh Trophy players). The boys of Islands United Football Club played the game of their lives to defeat Royal FC 1-0 and hence concluding the club’s maiden R-League A division campaign with our maiden victory in the Fourth division of Indian Football System. Though they finished at the bottom of the league with 4 points in 7 matches, they ended the campaign with a commitment that Islands United Football Club will be back next season stronger and better.

Appreciation and success on social media

“It’s good to see the two teams playing the ball on the ground, trying to play the ball between the lines. That is the kind of football we want to see as football purists.”,

comments Joel on the first game of the campaign.

The gameplay of Islands United FC received great appreciation by the commentator, fans, Rajasthan Football Association, and fellow football clubs. Mainly playing in a low block 5-4-1 formation, the team enjoyed less possession but was lethal in counterattack and set pieces. “We wanted to keep matches competitive through defensive discipline, unity in the team and unparallel work rate by the players” said Founder and Manager, Shrey Upadhyay.

The club’s social media received massive traction in the last 30 days (4 July-4 Aug 2021).

41.4% increase in followers
355% increase in accounts reached (total 7,164 accounts reached)
1,650% increase in story interactions
944% increase in content interactions (total 5,703 content interactions)
924% increase in post interactions (total 5,367 post interactions)
1778 YouTube views
15.35% increase in YouTube Subscribers (total 118 new subscribers)

Despite all the success, the club is still short of the INR 300,000, the amount required to reach break even point for the club’s R League 2021 campaign. If you like what IUFC are doing and want to contribute below are the details.

UPI – islandsuntiedfc@okhdfcbank

Gpay – 7737988777

For bank transfers, payment using credit/debit cards and international payments, feel free to DM IUFC on their social media channels. Alternatively, email atislandsunited13@gmail.com

You can also buy the club’s official merchandise and help them financially. To get the product catalogue and pricelists at your emails, please email at- islandsunited13@gmail.com or visit their social media @islandsunitedfc

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

Twitter

Links to their R-League matches are as follows-

Islands United FC vs Rajasthan Perfect FC

Islands United FC vs Jaipur Elite FC

Islands United FC vs Neerja Modi FA

Islands United FC vs Brothers United FC

Islands United FC vs Zinc Academy

Islands United FC vs Rajasthan Untied FC

Islands United FC vs Royal FC

IUFC’s core committee (graduates from foreign universities

Shrey Upadhyay (Founder)

Parth Upadhyay (Head of Finance)

Vansh Srivastava (Head of Media and Marketing)

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