Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


Big money, big plans — A small step for Indian football, a giant leap for ISL

Big money, big plans — A small step for Indian football, a giant leap for ISL

Abhranil Roy

Published: 20 Jan 2020 11:43 AM GMT

The Indian Super League (ISL) has catapulted into the news for a number of reasons in the recent past, but the sheer nature of their operations has ensured it gets recognized as one of the most-talked-about leagues in Asia right now. Established in 2014 as a footballing equivalent to the Indian Premier League (IPL), it has grown in leaps and bounds and was recently given the status of being India’s topmost football league, ahead of the I-League.

The CFG investment…

It all started off in early 2019 when news of the City Football Group (CFG), owners of franchises like Manchester City, Melbourne City FC and Girona FC looking to invest in the ISL broke out. Over the course of the year, the finer details were finalized and the CFG bought a majority stake in Mumbai City FC. Having owned and operated a legion of clubs in 4 different continents, the CFG is football’s most highly-valued organization and its involvement signals a long-term interest in the league. Bigger names, better infrastructure and smarter investments have usually followed whenever the CFG has invested, so that is another positive aspect of this association.

ISL announced as the top-tier league…

Initially conceptualized as the national cup competition, the ISL has long been at odds with the I-League in a bid to be recognized as India’s top-tier competition. That vision came to fruition in 2019 as well, with the AFC not only recognizing ISL as the top-tier league but also suggesting and implementing a roadmap that would gradually see it acquire AFC Champions League spots and open itself to promotion and relegation rules.

The ATK-MB merger….

Another deal that has been in the talks for over a year now, ATK FC’s owners RPSG finally announced their decision to merge with Mohun Bagan last week. RPSG bought an 80% stake, making them the majority shareholders of the 130-year old club. Going forward, a new entity will be formed merging ATK and Mohun Bagan and it will be participating in the ISL next season. This deal is significant because, for the first time in the history of Asia’s oldest club, it will be completely run by a corporate body that has a proven track record of running a successful football club: ATK has won the ISL twice under their aegis.

What does the future hold for ISL?

With the AFC roadmap in place, there is no doubt that ISL will be making many more big moves this decade. The next and most likely one is the ISL ensuring East Bengal becoming a part of its setup next season itself either by finding a big investor (as Quess Corp is most likely to leave) or by merging it with an existing ISL franchise. Watch out for this one!

Going forward, the onus for ISL will be to ensure clubs that get the AFC Champions League spot keep doing well in the competition so the standard of the league will only keep getting better. A children’s league and a women’s league have also been kicked off recently which underlines the fact that they are here to stay and make wholesome changes to the game. Of course, where does that leave traditional I-league clubs like Gokulam Kerala, Shillong Lajong and Real Kashmir and the likes remains to be seen as questions over its financial viability and league structure remains, but the future seems to be very promising as of now.

Next Story