Infographic: How Much Has the ISL Grown in 5 Years?
Inaugurated in October 2013, the Indian Super League was launched with the motive of promoting football in the country and providing young players with much-needed exposure to develop their skills. The combined efforts of IMG, Reliance Industries, and Star Sports gave rise to the first season of the ISL in the year 2014.
The first season of the ISL witnessed eight teams participate from all over the country. For the first three seasons, the ISL did not receive recognition from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as the I-League was still considered as the main league in the country.
However, the ISL earned the AFC accreditation prior to the 2017-18 season. Since then, the number of teams participating in the ISL increased to 10 and the duration of the league was then extended to five months.
Indian Coach Stephen Constantine, as well as football pundits across the globe, have often credited the ISL for the recent rise of Indian Football in the FIFA World rankings.
With the aim of taking Indian Football to the next level and with the help of some noteworthy marketing strategies, ISL had begun creating a local fan-base across the nation.
Even though India was still considered a cricketing nation, ISL had added the 'X-factor' to the game of football. The added interest of Bollywood celebrities in promoting the ISL gave rise to a new era of football fans.
Bollywood celebrities such as Ranbir Kapoor (Mumbai City), John Abraham (NorthEast United), Abhishek Bachchan (Chennaiyin FC) and cricket icons such as Virat Kohli (FC Goa), MS Dhoni (Chennaiyin FC), and Sourav Ganguly (ATK) became key stakeholders of teams in the ISL.
Slowly but steadily, the television viewership of ISL began skyrocketing. The 2017 season of the Indian Super League commanded a television viewership of 270 million which meant that the ISL was the third most-viewed sporting league in the country after the IPL (Cricket) and PKL (Kabaddi) respectively.
On seeing the stable growth of the Indian Super League, Hero Motorcorp renewed its ISL title sponsorship with a 196% increase in value in 2017. Team sponsorships witnessed an all-time rise of 22% and stadiums were now filling up with a rush of spectators to watch the games.
Over the years, there has been a significant development not only in the quality of the league but also in the quality of the players playing the league. This change can be proved by the fact that only 129 goals were scored in season 1 whereas season 4 had 261 balls going past the goalkeeper - a huge increase despite the number of fixtures also increasing.
There was a time when ISL matches were played only on weekends and the league ran for a period of roughly 2-3 months. The current season has been scheduled for a duration of five months and a total of 95 matches will be played during this time.
There has also been a notable change in the salaries and the price of bids made for players during the transfer season. Currently India captain Sunil Chettri holds the record for being the most expensive Indian player with a fee of Rupees 1.50 crores against his name.
Bengaluru FC striker Miku was signed for record wages of Rs 3.17 crores made him the most expensive international player to play in the league last season. The Indian Super League now has 268 players with 74 foreign players under its banner.
Chennaiyin FC co-owned by Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan and captained by Jeje Lalpekhlua are currently the defending champions of the ISL. Last season saw FC Goa's star player and Spanish footballer Ferran Corominas earn the Golden Boot award while the 'Wall' of Indian Football Subrata Paul took home the Golden Glove for maintaining maximum clean sheets.
The fifth edition of the Indian Super League is already underway. We have witnessed the first leg of fixtures and all we can conclude is that the ISL is definitely improving year after year. This season does hold a lot of surprises with some exciting foreign names in the lineups as well as extravagant Indian youngsters who are bustling with energy.
Football fans in India are definitely in for a treat this season.