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Inside the ISL: What facts are people surprised to hear about the league?

Foreigners, Celebrities, and the Indian Premier League. Find out about some interesting facts about the Indian Super League.

Inside the ISL: What facts are people surprised to hear about the league?

Indian Super League trophy


Rajdeep Saha

Updated: 23 March 2023 12:29 PM GMT

When it comes to sports in India, most people think about the Indian Premier League. The IPL is one of the world’s biggest sports leagues, attracting players from around the world. Top stars are treated like international celebrities—and for good reason. Compared to other cricket players around the world, the top names come from the IPL.

Source: Abigail Keenan

In fact, cricket lines offer more attention to India than any other country. Along with leagues in Australia, New Zealand, and Pakistan, oddsmakers offer dozens of lines on the IPL and even the Women’s Premier League. The fact that sportsbooks offer lines on a women’s cricket league is particularly noteworthy.

However, not all sports fans in India are so focused on cricket. While it’s not likely to budge as the national sport of choice, there’s another league that’s gaining steam year after year: the Indian Super League. Founded back in 2013 and launched in 2014, the ISL is India’s premier football league.

And despite the fact that it’s just about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, it looks like it could continue to grow in popularity across the country. If you’re new to the ISL and want to learn a bit more about the league, then keep reading for a few of the most unique facts on the football series.

Restrictions on Foreign Players

The ISL is part of the AFC or the Asian Football Confederation. The AFC Is part of FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, which means that all the ISL’s teams are ranked for international cups. Naturally, this makes the league open to international players—just like Spain’s La Liga or Brazil’s Série A.

However, the ISL isn’t quite as open to signing foreign players as these other domestic leagues. When the league was formed, creators wanted to give priority to Indian players. Clubs can sign a minimum of four international players—but a maximum of six are permitted on each team, and one of them must come from another AFC-affiliated nation.

The North American Draft System

Much of the ISL mirrors other domestic association football leagues in Europe. However, its draft system more closely resembles the North American rookie draft. But what does this mean? Essentially, players are funneled into a draft where teams are able to select players based on last season’s performance.

Source: Prapoth Panchuea

The worst team gets the first pick in order to eliminate parity, like that seen in the Bundesliga. Players don’t decide where they’ll end up based on a lucrative contract but on a balanced approach to competition. However, this system has proved unpopular and may change imminently.

Celebrities love the ISL

Given the popularity of European association football, it’s not surprising that so many celebrities would show interest in investing in the ISL. In fact, the ISL’s number of celebrity investors closely mirrors a similar relationship between star athletes and eSports teams, leagues, and federations. They were an important component of investment early on.

Some of the biggest investors in the ISL were Rana Daggubati, who is the co-owner of Hyderabad FC; Ranbir Kapoor, who owns part of Mumbai City FC; Chiranjeevi, who is part-owner of the Kerala Blasters; and, of course, Amitabh Bachchan, co-owner of Chennaiyin FC.

Attendance is on-Par with the IPL

If there’s one huge thing that the ISL has working in its favor, it’s the level of interest of Indian sports fans and their sheer numbers. After all, it pays off to start a league in a sports-obsessed country that has 1.4 billion citizens. This has helped foster growth in the ISL, as its games include a high level of attendance—even compared to cricket.

In fact, the ISL is even competing with the IPL. In 2017, the ISL welcomed an average of 14,731 spectators per match, while the IPL brought in 26,126. Given the disparity between the leagues in terms of scope and history, that’s impressive. However, the ISL still has to bounce back after its previous two seasons were played behind closed doors.

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