Travancore Royals – India’s First Fan Owned Football Club

Travancore Royals - India's First Fan Owned Football Club

For any sport, especially in a country like India where sports unites the diversified population, fans play an important role.
In many countries, fans own and run many such sporting entities, which are the bests in their respective business, after all when passionate fans choose to lead, the best will come!

We recently caught up with Mr.Jibu Gibson, Secretary /CEO of India’s first ever 100% fans owned football club!

Travancore Royals - India's First Fan Owned Football Club

Travancore Royals, is India’s first ever 100% fans owned football club.
The club is from Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital of Kerala.
Thiruvananthapuram’s history in sports goes back decades, once referred to as the sports capital of Kerala, which however lost it’s legacy in the midways.

Travancore Royals is an extremely ambitious project designed and developed by a team of sports management students of Sports Management and Research Institute (SMRI).
The club’s primary aim and vision is to bring back the glorious days of Thiruvananthapuram in the field of sports and uphold the legacy of the city. The club also made headlines recently, when they started an e-sports team, that too, for the first time by an Indian club!

World club football heavyweights such as FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund are some of the clubs which are owned and managed by their own fans.

On being asked about the birth of Travancore Royals, he said
” The idea of Travancore Royals actually started from a classroom. We at SMRI had a discussion about why clubs were shutting down, which eventually led us to study the structure of clubs like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borrusia Dortmund, and other clubs from Germany and the UK, where clubs are run by fans through peoples’ trust and made us think why can’t we in India follow the same, which gave birth to this club.”

“The club was an initiative set up and developed by the students of SMRI and now it is driven by the executive and core committee, who are the elected representatives. We discuss and make decisions for the club in a democratic manner”.

Starting a football club in India itself is a big challenge, that too a fan-owned one is quite experimental. On being asked about the inspirations and problems which the club faced he said,

” We haven’t faced any major problems with our system till date. Since the fans own the club, we have our own set of aspirations and the required funds. Since we, the fans run the club with our aspirations, the club will be more successful. That’s what we got inspired from. If you look at the global scenario of fan-owned clubs, there are instances when fans came and took charge of a sinking ship, which eventually became successful.”

Talking about problems, a concern of many people is that when the number of fan owners increase, will there be any problem or not, on which he quoted,

“We are in our initial stages now. It has been just 2 years and what we hope to follow is the democratic way to keep all the members together and actively work with all of them. What we have understood is that even if a small membership amount is collected, we can run a large club, and that’s how many clubs find their capital from. We are looking forward for our development. “

Kerala is known for it’s passion for football and it’s seen that Kerala Blasters have made a mark there. The support Blasters get is similar to that of the national team.
Is it possible for the new clubs coming in to build their own fan culture in this circumstance?

” Honestly, fan culture is everywhere. We are from Thiruvananthapuram and we want to build our fan base here, with the locals. Kerala Blasters has a huge fan base and we are still a budding club, we surely hope to compete with them in the future, after all, there should be competitions and rivalries between clubs. For instance, the entry of Gokulam Kerala was also a huge challenge for the other clubs from the state. But it forms a footballing ecosystem, which brings a big change.

This will give more opportunities to players, coaches, academies, and will get a major boost. Budding talented players will emerge and would make it to the highest level. It would be helpful to organize the scattered talents across the state.”

” If we look at clubs from Spain or in England, the talented players from the lower divisions are scouted at the correct time and are eventually seen in the top division clubs. That’s what we also want to do. It’s not a right mentality to only watch the games of an established club, the fans should look forward for the development of football in the state. Our aim is to find the talents at the right time, to give them a platform, and produce players for the Indian national team in the future.

The club football rivalry is below that. We will be more happy if one of our players will play for Kerala Blasters in the future, which the fans should also support. I believe that fan culture should be an ecosystem which develops everyone associated with it. Rivalries between club’s should be there only on the matchdays, and everyone should unite for supporting the growth and development of the game. We are a club, which is run by passionate fans and if you look we have a good relation with Kerala Blasters.

If Gokulam wants to help, we are open to all. Any club, whether it is small or huge, for the development, we are always ready to collaborate. The Fan base which Blasters have built is their achievement. For creating such a fan base we also have a small platform and are developing day-by-day. We welcome all the fans here and we also believe that with our works, we would also create such a fan base in the near future.”

In our country itself, there are fan owned clubs. And also, there are clubs where the fans are provided memberships. What is the difference between both?

” We are giving the ownership for the fans.It’s their own club, and they can strive towards the success of the club. Other clubs offer membership. However, once a member of the Travancore Royals , they are the owners of the team. They have the right to vote and compete for the board of directors. Therefore, it is their responsibility to contribute to the club.

Membership in other clubs will provide access to watch live matches, tickets would be free but no assignments or participation in running the club. But here, we build a community which owns the club and the members can take upon various aspects like social media campaigns etc on theirown and it’s because of them, we are able to move forward without much financial hardships.”

The club played qualifiers for Kerala Premier League within 2 years of it’s inception. Can we see the club competing in the league this year?

“It was a great opportunity for us to play the qualifiers.This year none of us expected this big strike from pandemic. We do have a good team, and we have signed new players too and as far as KPL is concerned, we are discussing but are not committed to it currently and the dates and details should be discussed with the association since it needs financial obligations and we need to go with it in a well structured manner.We are planning to participate in the youth leagues and are looking forward to develop our women’s team.”

Are there any sponsors or supporting institutions who help the club from the beginning?

The club is entirely run by the contributions of our fan owners with their membership fees and their active participation and the nomial fees from summer camps.
We don’t have any sponsors yet but we are looking forward for some partnerships and discussions are going on.We have a jersey sponsor, Hyve who has provided us the jerseys for our teams charging a nominal fee and even for free sometimes and they are our constant supporters.”

When you start a fan owned club, you start as a society, right? Will that help to get into ISL and I League in the future? Or else is there any chance of changing it to a company or something in the future? And how will the fans hold their shares in such a scenario?

” We are a society and will be until the time it gets to ISL or i-league. At that time we have to form into like a Pvt LTD organization. It is to meet certain formalities like to buy bid, hold license etc. In such a situation members within the society will be selected as Representatives for the board of directors. They may not be given a lifelong authority over the club. According to the plans it will change. Plans are to be put into this matter. Anyway so far this topic has not come to any of our discussion limelight. It can easily be planned in the future while clubbing with the leagues.

No big challenge it is. And a mass support, we can expect. For that a board directors will be sent. Only thing is the members should follow the criterias made by the society. There would be a proper agreement between the club and delegates regarding the selection of Representatives and other related things like restrictions for auction and marketing of share, in case. However the majority stake holders will be the fans. That’s our model. We’ll hold it, no matter what the circumstances. This is our main objective and we hope for it. “

Travancore Royals made the headlines recently after they initiated an e-sports team, which is also the first of a kind from the country, speaking on that he shared

“e-sports is a parallel entity from our side. As we see, e-sports is a huge opportunity now and will increase in future too. Major football clubs own their own e-sport teams and it conducts huge tournaments. We are primarily focussing on football related games. As FIFA and PES have it’s own revolution in the stream. No other club was taking the initiative, and we thought of starting one such. It will bring a lot of opportunities for our players and can even represent India at the global level.

We are associated with the e-sports association of Kerala and are planning to find the top talents. There are world championship and other huge international tournaments and could also be seen in the olympics and Asian Games in the near future. Within 3-4 months, we are going to build a strong team and will be participating in some tournaments. We are also trying for some tie-ups for the infrastructure for e-sports facilities.”

COVID-19 break has been productive for the team to brainstorm some new ideas, on which he quoted

“We are having online training sessions with all our u-15 kids and are giving activities and presentation programmes too. We are waiting for the situations to be normal and thereby to resume our trainings offline.”

The team has conducted scouting for a women’s team earlier with the aspiration of Indian Women’s League, with a well structured team.
“There are many talented players in the state which we are trying to build forward. We have a tie up with All Saint’s
college the players from there are a part of our team. We are aiming for IWL slowly by setting a good team and secured facilities for the players along with good education for them.”

He also added that the team is discussing about some strategic tie- ups
but are on a hold due to COVID-19.

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