Indian Football: ISL and I-League clubs and their tie-ups with foreign clubs

Bhaichung Bhutia, East Bengal, Leicester City
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From East Bengal to FC Bengaluru United, here is a list of ISL and I-League clubs who have entered into tie-ups with foreign clubs...

I-League second division club FC Bengaluru United recently entered into a partnership with La Liga giants Sevilla FC which would see the Spanish club share their expertise with the Indian club.

With the Bengaluru-based club becoming the latest Indian club to enter into a tie-up with a foreign outfit, we take a look at the other Indian clubs who have had entered into such partnerships before.

  1. East Bengal and Leicester City
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    #1 East Bengal and Leicester City

    East Bengal were amongst the first prominent club to ink a deal with Leicester City FC, who became the first Premier League club to engage officially with an Indian side. The Red and Gold's travelled to England and took part in a four-team competition, which included Portugal's Maritimo and Spain's Real Mallorca, at the Walkers Stadium. 

    The two clubs signed a three-year deal but after Leicester's relegation from the top division, their partnership was mutually terminated.

  2. JCT FC and Wolverhampton

    #2 JCT FC and Wolverhampton

    After East Bengal's sojourn with Leicester, another former NFL champions JCT FC entered into a tie-up with current Premier League and the then English Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2007. After the deal was signed a team from Wolves had visited the club to monitor their youth system and conducted a coaching clinic. A contingent from the Indian club had also visited the English side as part of the deal. Unfortunately, JCT was dissolved in 2011 and so did the deal.

  3. Dempo and FC Midtjylland

    #3 Dempo and FC Midtjylland

    In a historic deal back in 2011, five-time NFL/I-League champions Dempo SC had entered into a partnership with Danish top division side FC Midtjylland which saw the Goan club acquiring 34 per cent stake in the Danish side. The deal saw Dempo investing their money in Midtjylland and in return, they would provide and technical support to the Indians. It was a highly ambitious and landmark deal as an Indian club for the first and only time had invested in a foreign club.

  4. DSK Shivajians and Liverpool
    Sameer Joshi

    #4 DSK Shivajians and Liverpool

    Pune-based DSK Shivajians had entered into a deal with English football giants Liverpool FC in 2013 where the two clubs launched a full time coaching academy in partnership, the LFC International Football Academy DSK. The deal involved coach from Liverpool's youth system visiting the academy and would training the youth sides of DSK Shivajians. 

    Academy cadets were often sent to Liverpool's youth system to train with them. Two of the biggest names to have graduated from that academy are Chennaiyin FC's Lallianzuala Chhangte and Odisha's Jerry Mawihmingthanga who travelled to the Merseyside club and had also paid a visit to Liverpool's first team training.

    The deal came to an end after DSK ran into financial difficulties.

  5. ATK and Atletico Madrid
    Atletico de Kolkata

    #5 ATK and Atletico Madrid

    ATK FC were one the three ISL clubs to enter into a partnership with a European club. In the inaugural edition of the league, when the Kolkata-based franchise was created, La Liga giants Atletico Madrid owner 25 per cent stake in the club. Even though the Spanish side did not invest any money, they provided technical expertise and helped in squad building. ATK also used to visit Madrid during pre-season and conducted training in Los Rojiblancos' facilities.

    The partnership ended after the 2016 ISL season as Atletico Madrid ended their association with the club. ATK too merged with Indian football giants Mohun Bagan in 2020 and formed a new entity named ATK Mohun Bagan FC.

  6. Delhi Dynamos and Feyenoord
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    #6 Delhi Dynamos and Feyenoord

    Along with ATK, erstwhile Delhi Dynamos too had entered into a partnership with Dutch football giants Feyenoord where the club would name the Dutch side as their strategic partner. A few players and the coach came to Delhi as part of the deal. But after the inaugural season, the partnership ceased to exist.
  7. FC Pune City and Fiorentina

    #7 FC Pune City and Fiorentina

    The third ISL club who entered into a partnership with a foreign club in the league's maiden season were FC Pune City who signed a partnership with Serie A side Fiorentina. The deal would see the Italian giants sending reputed foreign players to play for the Pune-based side and the club visiting their facilities to conduct pre-season training.

    Unfortunately, this deal too was shortlived as it ended after just two seasons. Pune City was also dissolved after the 2018-19 ISL season.

  8. Chennai City and FC Basel

    #8 Chennai City and FC Basel

    Chennai City entered into a strategic partnership with Swiss football giants FC Basel in 2019 which saw the European side buy 26 per cent in the South Indian club. The former I-League champions, with Basel's expertise and know-how, have invested heavily in the club's youth system and have revamped the entire set-up. The club are also looking to establish a state-of-the-art academy in Coimbatore soon.
  9. Bengaluru FC and Rangers FC
    Bengaluru FC

    #9 Bengaluru FC and Rangers FC

    Former ISL champions Bengaluru FC signed a two-year partnership deal with Scottish Premier League giants Rangers FC in 2019.  In a bid to explore the Indian football market and grow their international audience, the Scottish giants entered into a partnership with the Blues. A scouting partnership will also be established which will allow the Scottish giants to identify India’s best talents.

    As a part of the deal, Bengaluru had facilitated the move of Indian Women's national team player Bala Devi to the Light Blues in 2020. Bala had joined the club on an 18-month contract.

  10. Mumbai City and City Football Group

    #10 Mumbai City and City Football Group

    City Football Group took Indian Super League (ISL) side Mumbai City under their wings in 2019 and acquired 65 per cent stake in the club. At the time of the deal, the Islanders became the eighth football club to fall under the CFG umbrella, along with Premier League champions Manchester City, New York City in MLS, Australia's Melbourne City, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque of Uruguay, Girona in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu in China.
  11. Hyderabad FC and Borussia Dortmund

    #11 Hyderabad FC and Borussia Dortmund

    Hyderabad FC and Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund forged a two-year partnership deal in 2020. The two-year deal also has an option to extend for additional years with an extended scope until 2025.

    The deal effectively involves Dortmund helping to build and support Hyderabad with its academy structure and coaching education. The partnership will also include BVB’s expertise in technology to drive innovation; enhance connectivity between the clubs, and positively grow and expand its fan base. 

    The deal saw Nizams become the fourth such partner of the Bundesliga side. Other than Hyderabad, Dortmund also have such deals with Thai Premier League Club Buriram United, Australia’s NPL Club Marconi FC and Iwate Grulla Morioka in Japan.

  12. FC Goa and RB Leipzig
    FC Goa/Goal

    #12 FC Goa and RB Leipzig

    ISL side FC Goa and Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig entered into strategic cooperation before the beginning of the 2020-21 ISL season. 

    The partnership will involve opportunities for young Indian talent to train and hone their skills at the German club's facilities, although the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic will limit the prospect to online correspondence for now. 

    In future, Leipzig is expected to offer support with on-site training that will involve the exchange of know-how regarding youth development. 

  13. #13 FC Bengaluru United and Sevilla

    FC Bengaluru United became the latest Indian club to sign a partnership deal with a European club. The I-League second division, club on Monday, inked deal with La Liga giants Sevilla. The deal will see the Spanish club expand and strengthen their presence in the Indian market and in exchange will share their technical know-how with the Indian side.