India’s Football Merger Has Some Problems


India will no longer be the only country in
the world operating two top-tier football leagues. In a meeting held at the Asian Football
Confederation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, on 14 October 2019, a plan to reform club
football was proposed and agreed upon. The Indian Super League will now be awarded
top-tier status. The All India Football Federation’s national football league, the I-League, will
be the second tier, with the provision of a five-year process proposed to ‘merge’ the
two leagues. Additionally, the 2019-20 ISL champions will
now be granted a place in the AFC Champions League playoffs, while the I-League champions
will go to the playoffs of the AFC Cup, as a “special compensation”. By the end of the 2020-21 season, two I-league
clubs will be able to join the ISL and from the 2022-23 season onwards, the winner of
the I-League will be promoted to the ISL, on the condition that the AIFF’s “merit and
national club licensing criteria” is met. Finally, a fully functioning promotion and
relegation system between the ISL and I-League will be properly established in time for the
2023-24 season. There will be no relegation until this season. Despite the benefits of the restructuring,
experts have, however, already identified several potential issues. In the future, the promoted I-League clubs
will not have to pay a franchise fee to join the ISL. But this will also mean that those
teams will not be entitled to a share of the ISL’s central revenue, a concern considering
the costs of participation. For example, Bengaluru FC’s operating expenses doubled when the club
moved from I-League to the ISL and, In the long run, this decision could prove prohibitive
to the survival of I-league clubs in the ISL. If they survive until then, that is. The AIFF
was unable to finalise a broadcaster for the current season until mid-November, meaning
that it began two weeks later, and while DSport agreed to broadcast the competition, there
were plenty of problems on the inaugural matchday – from total blackouts, to footage having
to be filmed on mobile phone cameras. The viewing experience so far has been poor. It’s expected that the two clubs who could
move to the ISL by the end of the 2020-21 season are Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, with
the size of their respective fanbases potentially making them strong candidates. But if the
two biggest clubs left the I-League leave, what would then happen to the competition? Sponsorship revenue, which is already declining,
would likely dwindle further and the remaining clubs would be weaker as a community. The
perception of the league would also clearly be damaged. This does not mean the ISL is invulnerable,
though, despite it being the fourth most-watched league in the world, after the Premier League,
La Liga, and Bundesliga. Before ISL was officially declared as the
top tier of Indian football, a 2018 KPMG Football Benchmark report said that a key issue which
needed addressing was the competition’s business model, which the report called “a
unique case in point in modern football”. Because the broadcaster Star India is a co-owner
of the league, the ISL is unable to sell its broadcasting rights to other media companies.
As a result, its franchises are unable to generate any income from television which,
in the report’s eyes, “is undoubtedly one of the biggest hurdles on their road to
sustainability,” The importance of broadcast revenue in club
football is well established. English Premier League Clubs receive 46% to 88% of their total
income from TV and broadcast rights, depending on the team in question, and that equates
to the largest income source for most. It’s especially important for the smaller clubs
with lower commercial, merchandising and match-day incomes. With no TV and broadcast rights, ISL clubs
earn from their share of the central sponsorship revenue, individual sponsorships, match-day
ticketing, merchandise and player transfers. ISL’s partnership with Hero is the most noteworthy
for the central sponsorship revenue. The automobile giant signed a deal worth $ 8
million for three years in 2014, which increased significantly to $25 million for three seasons
starting in 2017. But ISL’s initial 20% estimate on how much of the central sponsorship revenue
would have to be utilised for organisation was under-estimated, meaning a lower pool
was distributed to the teams. According to an HT report from 2015: “… Nothing
from the central sponsorship pool, said to be worth around Rs 70 crore, came to the franchises.
The league is supposed to take 20% (for) operational expenses but the rest wasn’t ploughed back
to the teams as promised. A spokesperson for the ISL said that happened because a huge
amount was spent in getting the venues ready.” More recent numbers aren’t too encouraging
either. According to Mint’s analysis, in 2017-18, only one franchise reported a pre-tax profit:
the JSW-owned Bengaluru FC. Nine of the ten ISL franchisees registered losses. Kolkata’s
ATK reported a net loss of Rs 53.5 crore. Revealingly, NorthEast United’s annual report
showed that the club actually paid more as a participation fee to the ISL than they received
from the central pool. The spending by football fans in India is
also a barrier to matchday and merchandising revenues. Despite season ticket prices as
low as Rs 1400, Mumbai City FC could only attract an average of 4,742 people to their
matches at the Mumbai Football Arena, despite its capacity of 18,000. As per figures correct
in January 2020, the competition’s average is also just 15,127, with five of its ten
teams drawing an average of less than 10,000 fans to their home games. The merger of two leagues could become a positive
development and international investors have started to see potential profitability in
Indian football. The City Football Group’s recent acquisition of the majority stake in
Mumbai City FC is an example. Although now dissolved, Atletico Madrid’s three-year
partnership with Atletico de Kolkata was another, so too Pune City’s relationship with Fiorentina
and Delhi Dynamos’ association with Feyenood. Most recently, FC Basel of Switzerland purchased
a 26% stake in the I-League’s Chennai City, although it remains to be seen how this might
be affected by the competition’s receding status. Indian football has potential, though, and
that continues to be recognised from abroad. But the challenges remain and sustainability
continues to be a problem without an answer.

62 thoughts on “India’s Football Merger Has Some Problems

  1. But at least Football is being promoting and fast becoming popular and may even overtake cricket, in a country where for a large period of time football was secondary to cricket, which frankly is a sport that I hate.

  2. Tifo has to be the best football channel on YouTube. It's not just the in depth analysis; these guys are genuinely passionate about exploring the world of football beyond it's heartlands in Europe and South America

  3. It will be a long time before 🇮🇳 becomes even an Asian Power. They was talk of India being one of the major surprises of Asian World Cup Qualifying and they have been one of the major disappointments so far.

  4. Several efforts are made to wake the sleeping giant. Once awaken, there's no stopping it. 🔥🆙️ We believe in India 🇮🇳

  5. Thanks a ton as always Tifo, typing this even before seeing the video.Thanks for making content on our country :") ❤️

  6. It is difficult for football to grow in India 🇮🇳 as majority of the people here seems to follow Cricket 🏏 more than any other sports.

  7. As an Indian football fan, I am thankful to Tifo for making a video on this. I just wish we'd become a giant in football one day 😥💙

  8. It's good that India has football but sheesh Cricket is like NFL for the Americans. It's almost like Cricket is the modern day Baseball when the MLB was Super popular in the 1900's

  9. Liked the emphasis on the sustainability of the league system in India. So many articles simply omit the finances of Indian clubs and the leagues. Just a few updates on the current state – Pune FC and Delhi Daredevils don't exist and in their place 2 other clubs namely Jamshedpur FC and Odisha FC are in the ISL. Also there was a merger between ATK and Mohun Bhagan recently which further complicates which two clubs enter the ISL at the end of this season.

  10. great video..
    Actually I wanted all the i league clubs to be in the same pool of ISL and AIFF would bear the fees of them partially.. That could have created a great league.. Merged league will definitely have more profit.. the investors will come with more fund.. But the problem is that there is a lack of money management.. East bengal MB (Recently have merged with ATK team).. do not have unbiased professionals to manage money.. MB somehow have saved themselves It seems but EB will struggle a bit at first to be in ISL..

  11. Potential is a word we have been carrying for years… I'm happy you made this video…So informative!

  12. But Star as a broadcaster is important as it promoted ISL heavily when it started and still promotes it during cricket breaks

    While stadiums are not filling is a problem but tv views are still fine
    What we need is rivalry between clubs for that you need history that will be provided by I league clubs

  13. Mohun Bagan FC isn't moving to I-league directly per say…
    It's merging with ATK FC

    Apart from that great video as always from Tifo

  14. India is a huge market. Although football is secondary to Cricket when it comes to popularity, the number of football fans is still huge. If done properly indian football has huge potential.

  15. Thanks to the guys working at tifo football. U guys r really passionate about football and have done great analysis.ISL still has only 10 teams with no good youth academy. The quality is not good and we need a good youth system to build young talent. Once there is an improvement in quality of football, there will be a chance of qualification of india in world Cup which will create a passion and culture of football. There needs to be a restructuring for Indian football to flourish.

  16. Feeling proud that a foreign youtubers talking about our football meanwhile others talking about " dricket" usless game

  17. Frankly the ISL model is based on franchises instead of actual football clubs (similar to the IPL). That kind of a model would not operate effectively in a game the size and scale of football.

  18. Vietnam was in similar situation decade ago, a private company like Reliance did in India took over ( they weren't corrupt ) and took the right decisions to develop their struggling yet favorite sport in their country. Now they've been able to produce world class players like Quang hai, Van Toan, who were close to sign deal in European top divisions.

  19. I've said this before, but I really love that Tifo Football is willing to tell stories about football from across the globe, not just from England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

  20. Indian football hasn't had the same amount of time to develop as compared to the leagues in the other parts of the world, but its raw potential may hold the key to raising it to a respectable level in the next decade or so.

  21. Hey, if you're happy to watch a mix of 35-40 year old European has beens with dodgy knees, ankles and alimony bills to pay, kids who were never quite good enough for championship clubs, and incompetent local hoofers, the Indian League is just the thing for you. Long may it prosper. Especially with Euro powerhouses like Basel backing it.

  22. A great video it was, I am from India & i am a big fan of your analysis,great work tifo👍.
    But the main fact in India is majority are running before cricket, this has been effecting the Indian football a lot.

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