Indian Super League

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Indian Super League
Hero Indian Super League.png
Country India
Confederation AFC
Founded 21 October 2013
Number of teams 8
Level on pyramid 1
Relegation to None
Current champions Atlético de Kolkata (1st title)
Most championships Atlético de Kolkata
(1 title)
TV partners See media coverage
2015 ISL season

The Indian Super League (ISL) (currently known as the Hero Indian Super League for sponsorship reasons[1]) is a professional football league in India. The league is one of the top-tier football leagues in India, the other being the I-League. The league features eight franchise teams from all around India.[2] The ISL runs from September to December, with a finals series determining the champion.[3]

The Indian Super League was founded in 2013 in an effort to make football a top sport in India and to make Indian football a major player worldwide.[4] The league operates along the lines of the Twenty20 cricket Indian Premier League, and Major League Soccer of the United States.[5] Unlike the majority of football leagues around the world, the ISL does not use the promotion and relegation system but instead a franchise system in which eight teams were created to participate in the league.[5]

The inaugural season of the league started on 12 October 2014 and concluded on 20 December 2014.[6] The current champions are Atlético de Kolkata, who won the 2014 season by beating the Kerala Blasters 1–0.



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.[7] The deal gave IMG-Reliance exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising, and rights 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 an IPL-type football league was officially launched when the Indian Football Association of West Bengal launched the Bengal Premier League Soccer with the first season 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 Indian Premier League-type football league, organized by IMG-Reliance, started arising after a conflict between the owners of the I-League clubs 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 in the United States.[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]


The Indian Super League was officially launched on 21 October 2013 by IMGReliance, STAR Sports, and the AIFF.[4] The league was announced to take place from January 2014 to March 2014.[16] 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 player 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 and I-League sides Dempo and Salgaocar.[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 signing in Indian Super League with Antonio López Habas taking the reigns.[23] The next day, Kolkata also announced the first official marquee signing in the Indian Super League when they signed 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.[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 at the DY Patil Stadium.[30]

Competition format[edit]

For the 2015 season, the Indian Super League will run from September to December.[31] Teams play 14 matches against the other seven sides twice, home and away.[32] In total, there are 56 games played during the regular season before the top 4 teams go into the finals. The finals include only a semi-final round and the final.[31] The semi-final round is done in a two-legged format while the final is a one-off match played at a neutral venue.[32]




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.[33] The Indian Super League owners act as the league's "League Partners".[34] British professional services group, Ernst & Young, were hired to draw up a criteria for the team bidding process and they were required to approve the bidders.[34] 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.[34] Football clubs such as Atlético Madrid and Shillong Lajong were also bid winners.[34]

Despite carefully selecting their owners, the Indian Super League has seen trouble in the past with their owners. In August 2014, two months before the first 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.[35] 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.[36]

Squad formation and salaries[edit]

During the 2014 season, the average salary for a foreign player in the Indian Super League was approximately 36.5 lakh (~$60,000) while the average salary for an Indian player was approximately 24 lakh.[37] The highest payed player that season was former Italian international Alessandro Del Piero, earning $1,700,000 for his three-month stint in India.[38] The highest payed Indian players that season were Subrata Pal and Syed Rahim Nabi. Both players earned 80 lakh.[37]

For the 2015 season, new roster rules were revealed by IMG–Reliance.[39]


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.[40] 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.[40]


On 18 July 2014, it was announced that Hero MotoCorp would be the first title sponsor of the Indian Super League.[41] The deal is scheduled to last for three-years from 2014 to 2016.[41] 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.[42] The company provides balls for matches and training sessions.[42]

Along with Hero and Puma, on 9 October 2014, it was announced that the Indian Super League organizers had signed sponsorship deals with five companies. Maruti Suzuki was signed in as an associate sponsor, while PepsiCo and Amul also signed deals.[43]

Media coverage[edit]


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 and 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 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]


The Indian Super League is also broadcast around the world. On 15 October 2014 it was announced officially where the league was being broadcast.[48] In the United States and Australia, the league was shown by FOX Sports. In Europe and South-East Asia the league was shown by Eurosport and in the UK and some of Europe the league is shown by STAR Gold.[48] In Africa the league was shown through SuperSport.[48]

Team performances[edit]

Titles and performance[edit]

Team Span Titles Best performance
Atlético de Kolkata 2014– 1 Champions (2014)
Kerala Blasters 2014– 0 Runners-up (2014)
Chennaiyin 2014– 0 Semi-finals (2014)
Goa 2014– 0 Semi-finals (2014)
Delhi Dynamos 2014– 0 5th (2014)
Pune City 2014– 0 6th (2014)
Mumbai City 2014– 0 7th (2014)
NorthEast United 2014– 0 8th (2014)

Season summaries[edit]

Season Champions Runners-up Semi-finalists No. of teams
2014 Atlético de Kolkata Kerala Blasters Chennaiyin Goa 8

Player records[edit]

As of 20 December 2014

Statistics below are for all-time leaders.


Rank Player Shutouts[50]
1 Czech Republic Jan Šeda 7
2 India Subrata Pal 6
3 England David James 5
Belgium Kristof Van Hout
India Rehenesh TP


Due to the format of the Indian Super League, 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.[51] 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".[51] Other critics have also questioned whether the league would actually improve the quality of Indian football and that the league might succeed in bringing spectators to the stadiums and increasing the amount of money the organizers have.[51] 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.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hero MotoCorp named title sponsor of ISL". The Hindu. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Katakey, Rakteem. "Tendulkar Buys Team as Cricket-Mad India Tests Soccer League". Bloomberg. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Mergulhao, Marcus. "ISL postponed again, by 3 weeks". Times of India. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Bali, Rahul. "IMG-Reliance keen to start an eight team franchisee competition, I-League likely to follow the MLS". Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Bali, Rahul. "ISL to kick-off on October 12". Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "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. ^ a b c d "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. ^ a b 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. ^ 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. ^ a b "Indian Super League’s second edition will be played between September-December 2015: AIFF". 21 December 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  32. ^ a b "Indian Super League: Complete fixtures". IBN Live. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  33. ^ Reevell, Patrick (27 November 2014). "With a New League, a Sport’s Sleeping Giant Begins to Stir". New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  35. ^ Mergulhao, Marcus (13 August 2014). "Now, Sun Group opts out of Indian Super League". Times of India. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  36. ^ "Abhishek Bachchan unveiled as ISL's Chennai franchise owner". Times of India. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  37. ^ a b "Indian players to earn more than foreign imports in Indian Super League". Indian Express. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  38. ^ Khatri, Binayak (14 October 2014). "Indian Super League: Del Piero, Anelka and Elano Amongst the Hightest Earners in ISL". IB Times. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  39. ^ "ISL sets Rs. 20 crore salary cap for 2015". The Hindu. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  40. ^ a b Gupta, Harsh (3 October 2014). "Home stadiums of the eight franchisees in the Indian Super League". SportsKeeda. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  41. ^ a b "Hero named title sponsor of Indian Super League". Times of India. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  42. ^ a b "Puma to provide ISL match balls". The Hindu. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  43. ^ "ISL signs up six brands as sponsor partners". The Hindu. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  44. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "During opening week 170 million Indian TV viewers tuned in to ISL". FirstPost. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  47. ^ a b Teja Sharma, Ravi (31 December 2014). "Indian Super League viewership surpasses FIFA World Cup". Economic Times. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  48. ^ a b c "Hero ISL being broadcast in over 100 countries". Indian Super League. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  49. ^ a b "Outfield Stats". Indian Super League. 
  50. ^ "Keeper Stats". Indian Super League. 
  51. ^ a b c "Super League may not solve India's soccer woes". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  52. ^ "ISL will answer critics in due course of time: AIFF director". Times of India. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 

External links[edit]