Embracing a popular world sport domesticallyThe Indian Super League began in 2014 and was later recognized by the Asian Football Association as a national football league. In terms of average audience per match, it ranked fifth among other football leagues worldwide. In terms of consumption, the league recorded 130 million viewers in 2021, the highest since its inception. Club football in general was popular in India, with the English Premier League teams enjoying top ranks among Indian fans.
Motorcycle manufacturer Hero MotoCorp won the title sponsorship for the ISL in 2014 for about 510 million Indian rupees, later renewing it in 2017 for 1.6 billion rupees about until 2023. This increase was proof of the league’s increasing popularity.
The All India Football Federation and Football Sports Development Limited jointly organized every season where a regular season runs from October to February. The top teams qualify for the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup. The champions from the eighth season in 2021 and 2022 were Hyderabad FC defeating Kerala Blasters in the final.
Being as successful as other professional top-tier football leaguesISL is India’s top-tier premier league, structured like the Indian Premier League (cricket) – the most popular sporting event in the country. However, the market values of the league itself and its clubs are not nearly as high, even when compared to professional European clubs.
The ISL clubs, unlike their top-tier counterparts worldwide, do not own assets or infrastructure yet. The potential however, for clubs to have their own stadiums, academies, or football schools in the future seems positive if the ISL’s growth trend continues. For now, clubs remain unprofitable: income is in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales, sponsorship, and broadcasting rights; and the largest chunk of expenses, on the other hand, are player salaries, and franchise fees.
Even though India’s franchise football league was not close to the IPL in terms of popularity - the IPL’s market value in 2021 was about 384 billion rupees, almost 100 times the value of the ISL - the latter continues to break records every season. This positively impacts all segments of the Indian football market, further breaking into an almost-monopolized domestic sports industry.