Indian Super League: History & It’s Business


In India, football existed in many forms since the 19th century with the Durand cup being founded in 1888. Before the creation of the National Football League, many clubs played in the state league or nationwide tournaments. After ten years of National Football League, the All India Football Federation which is the governing body of the sports in India decided to reformat the league to I-league with an effort to personalize the game. The league would suffer from lack of popularity due to the poor quality of football and poor marketing.

In September 2005, AIFF signed a media contract with Zee Sports, this television would telecast these leagues as well as other tournaments of it. However, the deal between AIFF and Zee Sports was terminated in October 2010 due to a difference in both parties regarding the payment. After a few months, AIFF signed 700 crore deal with International Management Group and Reliance Industries. This provides exclusive commercial rights to advertising, sponsorship, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising and to create a new league. 

The ISL is an Indian football championship competition that began in 2014 and the participants include eight franchises belonging to eight cities. The ISL is co-promoted by IMG-Reliance (a joint venture between IMG and Reliance Industries), Star India, and supported by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The primary purpose of the ISL is to develop a platform to groom football talent in India and elevate Indian football to an international level. The vision is to make India into a global football power and qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

When Iceland, a nation of approximately 3.2 lakh people qualified and reached advanced stages (and that too beating a stalwart like England) of Euro 2016, a premier European football competition, why can’t we? Surely, the intention of the ISL is noble. 

Indian Super league – Mission

  • To entertain hundreds of millions of fans and to provide high-quality football league
  • To deliver value to all partners and drives improvement in playing standards.
  • To create an international quality football competition.

Indian Super league – Vision

  • To make India qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and become a global football power.

The Economic Interest in ISL

One of the reasons behind so much interest from the private sector to invest in this league was the goal to create an attractive tournament for an ever-growing fanbase of football. Businessmen in India saw an opportunity to diversify their portfolios and try to capture a part of the market of one of the most popular sports in the world.

Football is a global phenomenon that profits more than the footballing industry. Companies benefit from the association to such a popular sport like the TV rights industry that sells licenses for billions of pounds in the case of the Premier League for example.

In India, Star is the owner of the broadcasting rights of the ISL. Star is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company and it is the biggest media conglomerate in the country with more than 60 TV channels and almost 800 million spectators.

Indian Super League comparison with Cricket in India:

Cricket is seen as a religion in India, so does football really stand a chance? Cricket is very popular in the media, in advertising and most of India’s idols are from cricket.

When discussing a comparison between Cricket and Football, the following points are important. Firstly it cost $1.95Bn for the Indian Premier League (cricket and IPL) to be created.

However it can be said that football is improving in its comparison with cricket and this is due to the ISL. The financial security offered by the league is essential to promoting football as a viable career option. The ISL today has 17 central sponsors. This kind of sponsor interest in football has never been seen in India before. This suggests that one, the football market is growing in India (and potentially challenging cricket), and two, football in India can be a serious occupation for Indian people. Furthermore the number of sponsors is ever increasing and this will of course lead to further positive viewership of the league.

Another good point about the ISL is the ticket prices for fans for matches. Tickets are priced as low as Rs150 ($2.37). Evidence shows that the ISL’s average attendance is 24,357, which surprisingly is only than the Bundesliga, the Premier League and La Liga. This suggests that the ISL is the fourth biggest league in the world. At the opening game of the ISL between Atlético de Kolkata and Mumbai City the attendance was a staggering 65,000. This match had an audience of 74.7 million people on television.

Recent Development 

The ISL has recently arranged a strategic partnership with the English premier league. It has been said that the aim of this deal is to help develop the ISL. Furthermore the partnership between these two organizations would see them work closely and share knowledge in various key areas, such as “player development, refereeing, marketing and promotion”. This provides further evidence that India is looking to improve football as a whole in the country and this move can potentially have a positive impact on the national team.

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan’s entry set to give better revenue returns to the ISL

The inclusion of SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan will multiply the TV and Digital viewership of the league by manifold. The two most supported football clubs will help the ISL’s revenue pool to garner a much higher revenue through advertisements, sponsorships and viewership. With the league held behind closed doors in Goa, the TV viewership will be extremely pivotal for the finances of the league. With the addition of the two Kolkata Giants, the nine other clubs are set to benefit on financial terms. 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: