What is the Indian Super League (ISL) – A complete guide

As the ISL inches ever closer to its grand opening, Goal tells you all that you need to know about what promises to be a multifarious footballing extravaganza…

So to start with, what exactly is the Indian Super League?

The Indian Super League (ISL) will be one of the top tier football leagues in India and will feature eight franchise teams. The league will run from October to December, with a set of play-offs and then a final match determining the winner of the league.

Unlike the majority of football leagues around the world, there will be no promotion and relegation system followed in the ISL. Instead, a franchise system is in place wherein eight teams have been created to participate in the league.

How did the idea of ISL initiate and come into being?

In December 2010, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) signed a 15-year deal worth 700 crore rupees with IMG-Reliance which gave them all-exclusive access to commercial rights and full freedom to create a new and lucrative football league in the country. So with this a premise, one may say that the ISL is a brainchild of IMG-Reliance.

Which are the teams involved in the competition? Who are their respective coaches/managers, marquee signings and team owners?

Here’s a table that will answer all your questions regarding the specifics of the teams that shall contend for the Indian Super League:

Team Stadium Head coach/manager Marquee signing Team owner(s)
Atletico de Kolkata Salt Lake stadium, Kolkata Antonio Lopez Habas Luis Garcia Atletico de Madrid, Sourav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka & Utsav Parekh
Chennaiyin FC Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai Marco Materazzi (Player-manager) Elano Blumer Abhishek Bachhan, MS Dhoni & Vita Dani
Delhi Dynamos FC Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi Harm van Veldhoven Alessandro Del Piero DEN Network
FC Goa Fatorda Stadium, Margao, Goa Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico) Robert Pires Videocon Group, Dattaraj Salgaocar & Shrinivas Dempo
Kerala Blasters FC Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi David James (Player-manager) David James Prasad V Potluri & Sachin Tendulkar
Mumbai City FC DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai Peter Reid Fredrik Ljunberg Ranbir Kapoor & Bimal Parekh
NorthEast United FC Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati Ricki Herbert Joan Capdevila John Abraham & Shillong Lajong FC
FC Pune City Belawadi Stadium, Pune Franco Colomba David Trezeguet Hrithik Roshan & Wadhawan Group

How were the eight franchise locations and their team owners arrived upon?

The eight franchise locations for the ISL were decided based on the popularity of football in the country as well as a set of variants focused on enhancing and widening the reach of the game in the country further. While locations like Kolkata, Goa, Guwahati and Mumbai were a given; locations like Chennai came into being when the originally planned franchise from Bangalore pulled out of the competition.

The team owners on the other hand were not awarded responsibility of the respective franchises only on the basis of financial strength and sustainability. Rather to go along with it, the franchises were awarded to the team owners with the long term plan that they had for their teams along with a mandatory spending on promotion of grassroots-level football.

What kind of format will the competition in ISL follow?

The ISL will run from October 12, 2014 through December 20, 2014. All the eight teams involved will first play a set of fixtures against each other home and away. The top four teams at the end of this stage will make it to the finals series wherein the semi-finals will be played over two legs followed by the final which will be a one-legged affair.

How was the mix of local, national and international players allocated and picked upon by each team/franchise involved?

The ISL consists of each team holding controlled rosters. Each team signs one marquee player along with seven other foreign players from the international players’ draft. The clubs were given freedom to sign their marquee player. Mumbai City FC and FC Goa signed their marquee players from the central pool provided by the organisers. Except for FC Goa and NorthEast United FC, every franchise had to pick 14 Indian players from the domestic draft. Apart from this, every team has been given the freedom to sign seven players on their own accord.

What exactly is the international/domestic player draft?

The ‘Player Draft System’ is one that has been adapted from the professional leagues of USA. The Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) among others have been using the draft system to allocate players to teams since the turn of the millennium.

It is a process which allows teams to pick players from the ones present in the pool at that moment. In a draft, the order is first decided and on the basis of your ranking you get to select the players. When a team selects a particular player during its turn, they have the right to sign him and no one else in the league is eligible to do that. The order of teams in the ISL was decided on the basis of draw of lots.

So how the does the player draft system work?

Each of the teams will get to make one selection per round as is commonly seen in a player draft system. The team that is ranked first gets the first pick and other teams follow subsequently. This process continues until all the players in the draft have been selected.

In the ISL, the domestic pool is divided into two categories - the free agents and the loaned players. An additional nine players along with the 84 present were added to make up the reserve squad.

The teams made their draft choices by announcing the name of the selected player at the time they were invited to make a selection. For this purpose, the teams were required to nominate two persons during the draft briefing.

Each team were given five minutes to select a player. Players once picked couldn’t be exchanged, replaced, transferred or traded in any case. Although after Bangalore franchise was dissolved, the domestic players selected for the said team were adopted by Chennaiyin FC.

In the ISL’s case, there were two separate events for the Domestic Players Draft and the International Players Draft. Herein all the teams/franchises except FC Goa and Northeast United FC participated in the Domestic Players Draft as these two had retained their set of required 14 Indian domestic players from their corresponding I-League clubs, namely Dempo SC and Shillong Lajong.

What is the prize money for ISL?

The ISL is set to offer a whopping 15 crore rupees in prize money which includes 8 crore being awarded to the winners with the runners-up walking away with 4 crore themselves. This isn’t it obviously. The two beaten semi-finalists will also get 1.5 crore each.

Besides the prize money, participating clubs in the ISL will also receive a sum determined by their respective teams’ league positions on the table. The sum, otherwise called a ‘performance bonus’ will be calculated as per the participation agreement.

Who will carry out media coverage for the ISL?

Star Sports, who are amongst the founders of ISL will be the official broadcaster throughout India. The plan is to reach 85% of India’s television audience in a bid to promote football in India on the highest scale possible. ISL will be telecast live on a range of Star’s sports, movies and regional channels so as to widen the reach. Live streaming for the same will also be available on starsports.com.