Sponsors, endorsements, and publicity outline the huge influx of financial investments that have entered the world of Indian Football. The Indian Super League has been on the rise since its inaugural season in 2014. It has seen various famous personalities vow for the ownership of a franchise in the league over the years. Ranbir Kapoor, Virat Kohli, and John Abraham are some of the big names that have invested in the growth of the league.
GROWTH OF THE LEAGUE
During the first three seasons of the Indian Super League, attendances across the competition had exceeded the expectations of pundits and of the domestic I-League mainly due to the timings at which the matches took place especially on working days, and needs no mention of sheer promotion.
Television ratings were surprisingly strong for the competition. Better commentary, better telecasting, pre-match and post-match shows, hourly reminders in various channels, social media interaction gave it a strong foundation.
The first three seasons of the Indian Super League operated without any official recognition from the governing body for football in Asia. It also clashed with the I league. The I-league had little to nothing and were at crossroads with dilution.
The AIFF proposed that both the Indian Super League and I-League run simultaneously on a short–term basis. The I-League winner qualifies for the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup qualification spot goes to the ISL champion. The proposal from the AIFF was officially approved by the AFC on 25 July 2017.
Mohun Bagan merged with Bengal franchise ATK to become ATK Mohun Bagan FC in 2020. This meant that they were no longer a part of the I-League. Similarly, East Bengal moved to the ISL making their debut last season.
Since the inception of the Hero ISL, there has been constant progression, innovation, and focus to develop Indian football. The latest changes in player guidelines are incorporated with the League’s philosophy of bringing constant improvement to India’s premier football event. The sport and the competition are ever-growing. The teams were able to lure in star players from the Australian League this season.
ISL announced a landmark partnership with London-based Terra Virtua Limited. It would allow the league to launch it’s exclusive Non-fungible token (NFT) as digital collectibles ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Indian Super League and South Asia’s leading esports company NODWIN Gaming on 26th October 2021 announced the launch of eISL. The Indian Super League will be in collaboration with EA SPORTS. This meant that the ISL became the country’s first sports league to venture into competitive gaming.
IMPACT ON PLAYERS
The Indian Super League 2021-22 season will witness an increase in the number of Indian players in the playing XI. This is courtesy of the new guidelines of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). The rule mandates clubs to have a minimum of 7 Indian players on the field at any point in time. The squad salary cap remains at INR 16.5 crore for the 2021-22 season.
The league is keen to promote Indian footballers as last season saw a number of youngsters grab the headlines. Akash Mishra, Jeakson Singh, Asish Rai, and Rahul KP managed to grab the headlines by delivering breakthrough performances and underlining the growth of young footballers in India. This season more domestic players will hope to take their chances. The new regulation has paved the way for more game time.
THE FUTURE LOOKS PROMISING
The league is committed to a strong grassroots development program. The aim is to create a platform to groom football talent in the country. With a mission to revolutionize the sport, the ISL is a high-quality, dynamic league that will elevate Indian football. The Official broadcasters, Star Sports, launched the ‘Yeh India Ka Football Hai’ campaign before the start of this season.
The competition began with commercial intentions. With the support of Reliance, Star India and the AIFF, it became one of the elite competitions in Asia . There is always room for improvement. If the growth of the competition is a sign of things to come, Indian Football is on the right path.
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