Indian Super League or Hero ISL is the top division football league in India alongside I-League under the governance of AIFF and the Asian Football Confederation. Unlike other football leagues around the world, the ISL doesn’t use a pyramid system, instead, they prefer to grow the league through expansion, just like MLS did with their league in the USA. However, a proper structure for promotion and relegation is going to be introduced by 2023–24. They’ve 10 clubs which were previously 11 with Pune City now dissolved, and most of the clubs are from Southern half of the country.
It was founded on 21 October 2013 in partnership with IMG, Reliance Industries, and Star Sports, and therefore the Indian Super League was launched to grow the game of football in India and increase its exposure within the country. The competition’s first season happened in 2014 with eight teams. During the initial three seasons of the ISL, the competition continued without official recognition from the Asian Football Confederation. The competition also operated along an equivalent line of the Indian Premier League, the country’s premier Twenty20 cricket competition, with the league campaign lasting for 2–3 months and matches held daily. However, before the 2017–18 season, the competition earned recognition from the AFC, expanded to 10 teams, and extended its schedule to 5 months.
As of now, only 4 teams have won the title, ATK is the most successful with 3 titles followed by Chennaiyin with 2 and Kerala Blaster and FC Goa with 1 each.
Football and India
Football in India has existed in many forms since the sport first arrived within the country during the 19th century with the primary nationwide club competition, the Durand Cup, being founded in 1888. Despite India’s early history within the game, the country’s first nationwide league didn’t begin until the semi-professional National league commenced in 1996. Before the creation of the National Football League, most clubs played in-state leagues or select nationwide tournaments.
Ten years after the formation of the National League, the All India Football Federation, the administration for the game in India, decided to reformat the league as the I-League to professionalize the game. However, during the subsequent seasons, the league would suffer from a scarcity of recognition thanks to poor marketing. On 9 December 2010, it had been announced that the AIFF had signed a replacement 15-year, 700–crore affect Reliance Industries and therefore the International Management Group.
The Indian Super League was officially launched on 21 October 2013 by IMG–Reliance, Star Sports, and therefore the All India Football Federation. The competition was announced to take place from January 2014 to March 2014. A few days later, however, on 29 October 2013, it had been announced that the ISL would be postponed to September 2014. At first, it had been announced that bidding for the eight Indian Super League teams would be complete before the top of 2013 which there was already high interest from big corporations, IPL teams owner, Film stars, and other interested parties. However, due to the rescheduling of the league, the bidding was moved to 3 March 2014.
It was also revealed around this point that not only would bidders got to suits a financial requirement but they might also get to promote ‘grassroots’ development plans for football within their area. Finally, in early April 2014, the winning bidders were announced. The selected cities/state were Bangalore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune. Former India cricket player Sachin Tendulkar, alongside PVP Ventures, won the bidding for the Kochi franchise.
Another former Indian cricket player, Sourav Ganguly, alongside a gaggle of Indian businessmen and La Liga side Atlético Madrid, won the bid for the Kolkata franchise. Meanwhile, Bollywood stars John Abraham, Ranbir Kapoor, and Salman Khan won the bid for the Guwahati, Mumbai, and Pune franchises respectively of which now Salman Khan isn’t an owner for Mumbai City while Pune City FC owned by Ranbir Kapoor are dissolved. Bangalore and Delhi were won by companies while Goa was won by a partnership between Videocon, Dattaraj Salgaocar, and I-League side Dempo but last year, Delhi Dynamos was dissolved and was transformed into a new team called Odisha FC owned by GMS group.
The first team to be launched officially was the Kolkata franchise as Atlético de Kolkata on 7 May 2014. On 7 July 2014, the team announced the primary head coach united history, Antonio López Habas. The next day, Kolkata also announced the primary official marquee signing within the Indian Super League, UEFA Champions League winner Luis García.
Eventually, all eight teams were revealed as Atlético de Kolkata, Bangalore Titans, Delhi Dynamos, Goa, Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City, NorthEast United, and Pune City were announced to which later Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC were added while Pune City FC was dissolved and Delhi Dynamos was dissolved and transferred into Odisha FC. However, on 21 August 2014, it was announced that due to Bangalore’s owners dropping out, Chennai would be given a franchise instead. The team was eventually named Chennaiyin FC. At the same time, the primary marquee players were Luis García, Elano, Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, David James, Freddie Ljungberg, Joan Capdevila, and David Trezeguet.
All in all, in the 6 years of the Indian Super League, it has seen a great downfall if compared to other international leagues which picked up the pace or fame in recent years like MLS, Chinese Super League or J-League from Japan in which vital role was played by the big-name marquee signings like David Villa, Oscar, Andres Iniesta, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, etc. which ISL failed to do while the overall valuation of the league is less than a 2nd tier English Football Club, Leeds United at just 4.45 billion euros.