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In order to gain traction with India's young consumers, many of whom are turning more and more towards soccer, Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile operator today signed a five-year, multi-million dollar content partnership deal with Manchester United, world's second richest football club after Real Madrid. The partnership with The Red Devils-nickname for one of Europe's top football club-will give Airtel's 94-million customers across India, Sri Lanka and Seychelles exclusive access to United's football content over mobile.
"The deal has two parts: a fixed fee component to United and the variable revenue sharing with it on the business generated selling their content," said Sanjay Kapoor Deputy CEO, Bharti Airtel. Mr Kapoor however did not disclose details on how the fee and revenue share model is structured. United's CEO David Gill too stopped short at revealing any figures saying, "It's a significant partnership and a significant investment for Bharti Airtel."

The partnership was announced by Mr Kapoor in the presence of Manchester United Club CEO David Gill, team manger Sir Alex Ferguson and players Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Darren Fletcher at Old Trafford, Manchester City, UK. The club has over 330-million fans worldwide, and around 12-million in India, according to Mr Gill. "If curry is the number one dish of the UK, why can't football become the number one sport in India, given the close affinities between the two cultures," added Mr Gill.

In addition Airtel users will also get an opportunity to participate in the Manchester United Soccer Schools (MUSS) programme currently operated by Manchester United Merchandising Limited. MUSS are currently run in Hong Kong, Seattle, Toronto and Dubai as well as Manchester. Airtel customers will also get an opportunity to watch football matches at United's home ground at Old Trafford, Manchester and travel to Europe to watch the club play the UEFA Champions League.

Mr Gill added: "Football is definitely seeing a growing interest amongst the young population in India. Therefore, we are making a pioneering effort to bring to them rich football content on their mobiles, a fantastic opportunity to be part of the world's leading football club through participation in soccer schools, and also an opportunity to watch football matches across Europe.

The Bharti Group last year announced pouring in Rs 100-crore to build a world class football academy which will work to make the Indian team qualify for the World Cup Soccer. To be run under the aegis of All India Football Federation-Bharti Airtel, there however not been much progress on the project since then.

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