Indian Super League

Indian Super League
Country India
Confederation AFC
Founded 21 October 2013[1]
Number of teams 8
Relegation to None
Current champions Chennaiyin FC
Most championships Atlético de Kolkata
Chennaiyin FC
(1 title each)
TV partners See media coverage
2016 ISL season

The Indian Super League (ISL) is a men's professional football league in India. The league is officially named the Hero Indian Super League for sponsorship reasons.[2] Currently not a part of the Indian football pyramid, the league serves as one of the top tournaments in India, along with the domestic I-League. The league runs from October to early December, with a finals series determining the champion in mid-December.[3]

The Indian Super League was founded in 2013 in an effort to make football a top sport in India and to increase the level of Indian football worldwide.[1] The league currently features eight teams from around India, with four of the top five cities by population represented in the league.[4] Unlike other football leagues from around the world, the ISL is one of the few leagues to not use the promotion and relegation system but instead a franchise system along the lines of the Twenty20 cricket league, the Indian Premier League, Major League Soccer of the United States and Canada, and the A-League in Australia.[5]

Since the inaugural season, two teams have been crowned the champions of the Indian Super League. Atlético de Kolkata won the league in 2014 while Chennaiyin won in 2015.[6]



On 9 December 2010, the All India Football Federation signed a 15–year, 700–crore deal with Reliance Industries and the International Management Group of the United States (IMG-Reliance).[7] The deal gave IMG-Reliance exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising, and the right to create a new football league.[7] This deal came after the AIFF ended their 10–year deal with Zee Sports five years early in October 2010.[8]

On 25 April 2011, the first version of a franchise, Indian Premier League type football league was officially launched when the Indian Football Association of West Bengal launched the Bengal Premier League Soccer. The first season was scheduled for 2012.[9] This league was not connected with the AIFF or IMG-Reliance. All six franchises would be based within West Bengal. The league would have featured top players such as Fabio Cannavaro, Robbie Fowler, Hernán Crespo, and Robert Pirès,[10] however, in February 2012, it was announced that the league would be postponed to an undecided date before finally disbanding officially in 2013 due to financial reasons.[11]

In early 2012, the first rumours of an nationwide franchise–type football league, organized by IMG-Reliance, started arising after a conflict arose between the owners of the clubs in I-League and the AIFF over lack of communication. The rumour was that IMG-Reliance had planned on reforming the I-League along the lines of the IPL and Major League Soccer of the United States and Canada.[12] These rumours were confirmed to be true in 2013 when, despite the failure of the Bengal Premier League Soccer, the AIFF approved IMG-Reliance's proposal for another IPL-style league for 2014, including all of India.[13]

Early hits towards the proposed league followed soon after, with owners of the I-League clubs fully going against this idea.[14] The owners formed an organization known as the Indian Professional Football Clubs Association and stated that they would go against loaning out their players to IMG-Reliance for the league and go against signing any players already signed by IMG-Reliance.[14] However, in August 2013, it was reported that IMG-Reliance had already signed the required amount of Indian players needed.[15]


Elano was part of the inaugural class of marquee players in the ISL.

The Indian Super League was officially launched on 21 October 2013 by IMGReliance, STAR Sports, and the AIFF.[1] The league was announced to take place from January 2014 to March 2014.[16] A few days later however, on 29 October 2013, it was announced that the ISL would be postponed to September 2014.[16] Also in October, it was announced that former Manchester United and France international Louis Saha had become the first marquee signing for the Indian Super League.[17]

At first, it was announced that bidding for the eight Indian Super League teams would be complete before the end of 2013 and that there was already high interest from big corporates, Indian Premier League teams, Bollywood stars, and other consortiums.[18] However, due to the rescheduling of the league, the bidding was moved to 3 March 2014.[19] It was also revealed around this time that not only would bidders need to comply with a financial requirement but they would also need to promote grassroots development plans for football within their area.[20] Finally, in early April 2014, the winning bidders were announced.[21] The selected cities/state in April 2014 were Bangalore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune.[21] Former India cricket player Sachin Tendulkar, along with PVP Ventures, won the bidding for the Kochi franchise. Another former Indian cricket player, Sourav Ganguly, along with a group of Indian businessmen and La Liga side Atlético Madrid, won the bid for the Kolkata franchise.[21] Meanwhile, Bollywood stars John Abraham, Ranbir Kapoor, and Salman Khan won the bid for the Guwahati, Mumbai, and Pune franchises respectively. Bangalore and Delhi were won by companies while Goa was won by a partnership between Videocon, Dattaraj Salgaocar, and I-League side, Dempo.[21]

The first team to be launched officially was the Kolkata franchise as Atlético de Kolkata on 7 May 2014.[22] On 7 July 2014, the team announced the first head coach in league history, Antonio López Habas.[23] The next day, Kolkata also announced the first official marquee signing in the Indian Super League, UEFA Champions League winner Luis García.[24]

Eventually, all eight teams were revealed as Atlético de Kolkata, Bangalore Titans, Delhi Dynamos, Goa, Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City, NorthEast United and Pune City.[25][26] However, on 21 August 2014, it was announced that due to Bangalore's owners dropping out, Chennai would be given a franchise instead.[27] The team was eventually named Chennaiyin FC.[28] At the same time, the original marquee players were Luis García, Elano, Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pirès, David James, Fredrik Ljungberg, Joan Capdevila, and David Trezeguet.[25]

The inaugural season began on 12 October 2014 at the Salt Lake Stadium when Atlético de Kolkata defeated Mumbai City, 3–0. The first goal was scored by Fikru Teferra.[29] The inaugural final was held on 20 December 2014 with Atlético de Kolkata becoming champions after defeating Kerala Blasters 1–0 at the DY Patil Stadium.[30]

Competition format

The Indian Super League regular season currently runs from October to December. The teams play in a single table during the regular season and each team will play each other twice, once at home and once away from home, to complete a fourteen-game season.[31] At the end of the regular season, the top four teams in the table qualify for the semi finals.[31] During the semi finals, the team that finished first during the regular season will take on the team that finished fourth, while the other fixture features the second and third placed teams.[31]

During the semi finals, the first round is played in a two-legged format with both teams playing each other at their home venues. At the end of the two matches, the team which leads on aggregate moves on to the final.[31] The final is a single-leg match which takes place in a neutral venue. If scores are tied on aggregate in the first round or in the final, 30 minutes of extra time would be used to determine the winner and finally, if still tied, penalties.[31]


Currently, the Indian Super League consists of eight teams from seven different states in India.[25][27] Four of the top five most populous cities are represented in the Indian Super League, with Bangalore being the excluded city after their team was disbanded before the inaugural season.[27] Unlike other football leagues, the ISL does not use promotion and relegation. Currently, the league only features two main derbies which include the Southern derby between Chennaiyin and the Kerala Blasters, and the Maharashtra derby between Mumbai City and Pune City.[32]

As of now, each team can have a maximum of twenty-five players on their roster and a minimum of twenty-two.[33] A maximum of eleven players can be foreign with a minimum requirement of eight per team.[33] Each team must also sign at least one marquee player who must be league approved. The rest of the players must be domestic Indian players, two of which must be developmental under-23 players.[33]



Just like the Indian Premier League, the Indian Super League has a similar ownership model in which the teams are owned by prominent businessmen, as well as celebrity owners from bollywood and cricket.[34] The Indian Super League owners act as the league's "League Partners".[35] British professional services group, Ernst & Young, were hired to draw up criteria for the team bidding process and to approve the potential owners.[35] In April 2014 the owners were announced. Bollywood stars such as Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham, and Salman Khan were bid winners, as well as cricket stars such as Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.[35] Football clubs such as Atlético Madrid and Shillong Lajong were also bid winners.[35]

Despite careful selection of their owners, the Indian Super League has had trouble in the past with team ownership. In August 2014, two months before the inaugural season, SUN Group, the owners of the Bangalore franchise, dropped out of the league after the league rejected their potential tie-up with I-League club Bengaluru FC.[36] Later that month, it was announced that another Bollywood star, Abhishek Bachchan, would take over the last franchise spot and move the team from Bangalore to Chennai.[37]

The league had its first ownership switch within a team on 1 June 2016 when the Kerala Blasters announced their new ownership structure. Along with Sachin Tendulkar, the team bought in businessman Nimmagadda Prasad and film stars Allu Aravind, Chiranjeevi, and Akkineni Nagarjuna after PVP Ventures withdrew their stake in the team.[38]


The Salt Lake Stadium hosted the first ever ISL match in October 2014.

During the league's inaugural season, a variety of stadiums were used. Two of the stadiums, the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, are mainly used as cricket stadiums.[39] Three other stadiums are athletic stadiums which are primarily used to host football matches in the I-League: the Fatorda Stadium in Goa, the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, and the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. Three other venues were used which don't primarily host top-tier professional football: the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Assam, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.[39]


On 18 July 2014, it was announced that Hero MotoCorp would be the first title sponsor of the Indian Super League.[40] The deal is scheduled to last for three-years from 2014 to 2016.[40] Then, on 30 September 2014, a week before the first season, it was announced that German sports manufacture, Puma SE, would be the official ball supplier of the Indian Super League.[41] The company provides balls for matches and training sessions.[41]

The league relies heavily on a central sponsorship pool. League stakeholders, STAR Sports and IMG–Reliance, manage the central sponsorship pool and market the league to potential investors and sponsors.[42] Twenty percent of the money gained in the central sponsorship pool goes towards organizing the league while the rest is divided among the teams. Despite successfully gaining a lot of money through central sponsorship in 2014, 100% of the revenues were used by the league to improve infrastructure and facilities, which meant that the teams gained nothing from the first season.[42] The next season saw that change, however, with the central sponsorship pool doubling to around 100 crore due to new league–wide sponsorships with corporates such as Flipkart and DHL Express. Teams were also able to increase their intake in sponsorships in 2015 with shirt sponsorship deals worth double from the previous season and around nine advertisements allowed on team kits.[42] Teams in the league have also signed shirt manufacturing sponsorship deals with companies such as Adidas and Puma.[42]


The Indian Super League trophy was unveiled on 5 October 2014, by Nita Ambani, the founder and chairperson of Football Sports Development. At the trophy unveiling occasion, Mrs. Ambani said, "It's a momentous day for all of us today as I stand along with the world's footballing legends to unveil the pride of Indian Super League. As these role models have inspired hundreds of thousands of players worldwide, I am sure the ISL trophy will also stand as a symbol of aspiration for many youngsters in an emergent India".

Designed by Frazer and Haws, the trophy stands 26 inches tall. The logo on the top band has the ISL colours assigned to it and the handles are ornately carved and embellished with 24 carats gold gilt to imbue a sense of pride, when held up.[43]

Media coverage

With STAR Sports being one of the organizers of the Indian Super League, they also serve as the official broadcasters of the league in India.[44] The goal of STAR Sports for the league was to "use its superior content creation, packaging and presentation expertise to attract and retain viewer interest."[44] In September 2014 it was announced that STAR Sports would broadcast the ISL through eight channels in five different languages in an attempt to reach 85% of the Indian television audience, the first of its kind in Indian sporting history.[45]

The first match of the Indian Super League, between Atlético de Kolkata and Mumbai City on 12 October 2014, reportedly drew a television audience of 75 million people.[46] The first week reportedly drew 170 million people in total. These numbers were 12 times more than what India drew for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and around 20-30 times more than what the I-League, India's other top-tier football league, drew on TEN Action and even the Premier League.[46] Overall, at the end of the first season, it was reported that the ISL drew a total of 429 million viewers across India, just a bit lower than the Pro Kabaddi League, and two and a half times more than the FIFA World Cup.[47] It was also reported that 57% of the viewers were women and children and that the STAR Sports website gained 32 million visits during the tournament.[47]

Team performances

Finals results

Season Date Winner Score Runners–up Venue Attendance Hero of the League Semi-finalists
2014 20 December Atlético de Kolkata 1–0 Kerala Blasters DY Patil Stadium 36,484 Canada Iain Hume Chennaiyin, Goa
2015 20 December Chennaiyin 3–2 Goa Fatorda Stadium 18,477 Colombia Stiven Mendoza Atlético de Kolkata, Delhi Dynamos

Championships by team

Championships Team Years
1 Atlético de Kolkata 2014
1 Chennaiyin 2015

Player records

Statistics below are for all-time leaders. Bold indicates active ISL players and their current clubs.

All statistics are based on the first two seasons only.

Most appearances
Rank Player Years Appearances
1 Canada Iain Hume 2014– 32
2 France Grégory Arnolin 2014– 31
3 Spain Borja Fernández 2014– 30
4 Brazil Gustavo Marmentini 2014–2015 29
5 India Arnab Mondal 2014– 28
France Bernard Mendy 2014– 28
Netherlands Hans Mulder 2014– 28
8 India Dhanachandra Singh 2014– 27
India Harmanjot Khabra 2014– 27
Botswana Ofentse Nato 2014– 27

Top goalscorers
Rank Player Years Goals
1 Colombia Stiven Mendoza 2014–2015 17
2 Canada Iain Hume 2014– 16
3 Brazil Elano 2014–2015 12
4 India Jeje Lalpekhlua 2014– 10
5 Brazil Gustavo Marmentini 2014–2015 8
6 Brazil Bruno Pelissari 2014– 7
Nigeria Dudu Omagbemi 2014– 7
Brazil Reinaldo 2015– 7
India Sunil Chhetri 2015– 7


Due to the format, the league has taken plenty of criticism, especially leading into its first season. I-League club Churchill Brothers argued that the league would do more harm to football in India than good.[48] Their main criticism was with the length of the league: "How do you even call it a league? You need at least six months to term yourself a league".[48] Other critics have also questioned that the league might succeed in bringing spectators to the stadiums and increasing the amount of money the organizers have but will the league actually improve the quality of Indian football?[48] Unlike football leagues around the world, the Indian Super League season lasts from October to December, which is two-to-three months.[49] In July 2015, India national team head coach, Stephen Constantine, had added to the disapproval of the league length and also called for there to be just one top league for football as currently the ISL shares the top spot with the I-League.[50]

The All India Football Federation director, Gautam Kar, has hit out at these criticisms, saying that the league will answer the critics in due time.[51]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Reliance, IMG Worldwide, and STAR India, launch 'Indian Super League' for football". IMG. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  2. "Hero MotoCorp named title sponsor of ISL". The Hindu. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  3. Mergulhao, Marcus. "ISL postponed again, by 3 weeks". Times of India. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  4. Katakey, Rakteem. "Tendulkar Buys Team as Cricket-Mad India Tests Soccer League". Bloomberg. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  5. Bali, Rahul. "IMG-Reliance keen to start an eight team franchisee competition, I-League likely to follow the MLS". Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  6. Netto, Brendon (25 June 2016). "Chennaiyin FC win the title". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  7. 1 2 "AIFF signs 700-crore deal with IMG-RIL". Times of India. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  8. "AIFF approaches Jindal, Videocon to sponsor I-League". Top News. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  9. "IFA announces launch of Premier League Soccer". Times of India. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  10. "Cannavaro, Pires, Fowler, Crespo In All New India League". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  11. "India's ambitious Premier League Soccer plan finally axed". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  12. "I-League clubs refuse to accept AIFF diktat". Times of India. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  13. Mohan, Srinivasan. "IMG-Reliance to host franchisee based tournament in 2014". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  14. 1 2 "Clubs hit out against new I-League format, IMG Reliance tournament". New Indian Express. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  15. Baber, Mark. "India's I-League teams fail licensing tests as AIFF and IMG-Reliance forge ahead". Inside World Football. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  16. 1 2 "Indian Super League postponed". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  17. "Louis Saha roped in for IMG- R League". Cover India Live. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  18. Rao, K Shriniwas. "Indian Super League postponed by six months". Times of India. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  19. "Bidding process for Indian Super League opens on March 3". NDTV Sports. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  20. "Football league bids kick off with a roar". Business-Standard. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  21. 1 2 3 4 "Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly foray into football, win ISL bids". Times of India. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  22. Loiwal, Manogya. "Kolkata franchise of Indian Super League launched, christened Atletico de Kolkata". India Today. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  23. Mallick, Jayanta. "Antonio Lopez Habas declared as franchise-based football team coach". The Hindu Businessline. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  24. "Atletico De Kolkata signs Luis Garcia for Indian Super League". Economic Times. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  25. 1 2 3 Crocker, Sam (7 October 2014). "Indian Super League: club-by-club guide to the inaugural season". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  26. Jitendran, Nikhil (8 August 2014). "Bengaluru ISL franchise Christened as 'Bangalore Titans' - report". Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  27. 1 2 3 Marar, Nandakumar (21 August 2014). "ISL: Chennai replaces Bangalore, Kerala Blasters pick Michael Chopra". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  28. "City ISL Team Christened Chennaiyin FC". New Indian Express. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  29. Bera, Kaustav (12 October 2014). "Atletico de Kolkata 3-0 Mumbai City FC: Garcia stars for Ganguly's side". Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  30. "ISL: Atletico de Kolkata beat Kerala Blasters 1-0 to win title". Times of India. 20 December 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  31. 1 2 3 4 5 Ullal, Naveen (2 October 2015). "ISL 2015: All you need to know about Indian Super League". IB Times. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  32. "Looking at the biggest rivalries in the Indian Super League". SportsKeeda. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  33. 1 2 3 "ISL Governing Council presents regulations for player retention". Indian Super League. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  34. Reevell, Patrick (27 November 2014). "With a New League, a Sport's Sleeping Giant Begins to Stir". New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  36. Mergulhao, Marcus (13 August 2014). "Now, Sun Group opts out of Indian Super League". Times of India. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  37. "Abhishek Bachchan unveiled as ISL's Chennai franchise owner". Times of India. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  38. Rajan, Adwaidh (2 June 2016). "Kerala Blasters' new owners try to strike a chord". New Indian Express. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  39. 1 2 Gupta, Harsh (3 October 2014). "Home stadiums of the eight franchisees in the Indian Super League". SportsKeeda. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  40. 1 2 "Hero named title sponsor of Indian Super League". Times of India. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  41. 1 2 "Puma to provide ISL match balls". The Hindu. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  42. 1 2 3 4 Dhar, Pulasta (3 October 2015). "Central sponsorship doubles to Rs 100 cr as 2015 promises better football, bigger battles". FirstPost. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  43. "Hero Indian Super League trophy unveiled". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  44. 1 2 "IMG Reliance invites bids for Indian Super League football teams". Indian Television. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  45. "Indian Super League to be broadcast across 8 television channels in 5 languages". SportsKeeda. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  46. 1 2 "During opening week 170 million Indian TV viewers tuned in to ISL". FirstPost. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  47. 1 2 Teja Sharma, Ravi (31 December 2014). "Indian Super League viewership surpasses FIFA World Cup". Economic Times. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  48. 1 2 3 "Super League may not solve India's soccer woes". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  49. "To protect players, ISL to be stretched longer in 2015". Indian Express. 21 December 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  50. Basu, Saumyajit (21 July 2015). "Two leagues not the way forward: Constantine". Times of India. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  51. "ISL will answer critics in due course of time: AIFF director". Times of India. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Indian Super League.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.