Indian Super League (ISL) is perhaps the best thing to happen for Indian football in the last decade. The stage is all set for the opening of the sixth edition that packs packing 10 teams, with a glittering ceremony on October 20 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.
Two-time champions ATK will take on Kerala Blasters FC in the opening match.
High-octane performances by Bollywood stars Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani, along with the Internationally acclaimed Indian dance group – Kings United will precede the robust opening match. Anchored by actor Dulquer Salmaan, the opening ceremony will start 6:00 pm at the stadium.
ISL has changed the face of Indian football for the better in many ways from quality of the game, finding and grooming of the talent to improved professionalism. But the most important impact of ISL is the increase of the fan base or the expansion of football lovers in the otherwise cricket-crazy country. ISL has increased the popularity of the game in the country by many notches. Football is no more second to Cricket, whether it is about the players or the fans.
We have seen a sharp increase in the gate collection and tv viewership for the football over the years, though there was a bit of concern last year. The last edition of ISL was watched by 127.7 million people, according to the available figures. The 2015 season saw an average attendance of 27,111 between the eight teams, higher than the average from the league’s inaugural season in 2014. In the 2016 season, average attendance reduced to 21,003. In the 2017–18 season, this figure reached a record of 25,443.In the 2018-19 edition which saw more games and spanned over longer time, the average attendence was 20018. This is amazing figures when you compare it with other world leagues. Even the English premier league has an average attendance of around 35000, despite the legacy and innate football love of English fans.
Most of the teams, especially Kerala Blasters and Bangalore FC, have very strong fan-base. Kerala Blasters has over 1 million followers each on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With 4.3 million aggregate digital followers, Blasters is ranked among the top foobal clubs in the world. The yellow brigade (Manjapada) is considered as the 12th player for the Blasters. Things are not different for other teams too, though they may vary in degree. It all shows how ISL has become the celebration of fans.
According to the reports, the league managed by Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), has done well financially over the years. Over the last five years, the revenues have doubled and it reported a profit last year. Star India earned about Rs 200 crore through ad revenue last year. FSDL was owned by Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Group, global sports management firm International Management Group (IMG) and broadcaster Star India.
At the end of the day, more people are watching the game whther in TV or in the stadium and more people are talking about it, thanks to ISL. It is the league of fans too.