Indian Super League finally enters Bengaluru market

The Garden City shall finally get a taste of the ISL action after having missed out on despite being part of the original list of eight cities...

On 13th April 2014, the names of the eight team owners of the Indian Super League (ISL) was announced. Kalanithi Maran-controlled Sun Group were awarded the franchise from the city of Bangalore.

However, there were several roadblocks and the availability of the Kanteerava Stadium was one of the main issues. The Department of Youth Services and Sports, Government of Karnataka had informed the Sun Group and representatives from IMG-Reliance, who are the commercial and marketing partners of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), of the stadium being available only on Sundays.

Thereafter, there was an announcement of a technical tie-up between Sun Group and JSW’s Bengaluru FC, who plied their trade in the I-League, the country’s premier division.

Tata and Bengaluru FC join the ISL bandwagon

“We have experience in sports with experience of at least two IPL’s (cricket’s Indian Premier League) behind us. Football is new to us as a group. So Bengaluru FC brings their experience on the table which shall play an important role for us,” said Ananth Nagarajan, Head of Sports – Sun Group to Goal.

“Bengaluru FC brings the knowledge of football planning. They bring the football strength to us,” he added.

“It (buying a stake) is something that we are looking. For the first year, it will be a technical tie-up but from the second year, we will explore the opportunity of Bengaluru FC forming the core of the Bangalore franchisee as well,” said Mustafa Ghouse, CEO at JSW Sports.

Bengaluru FC Fans

Bengaluru FC looking to win ISL in its first year

The club also decided upon their franchise name – Bengaluru Titans – with JSW Sports being close to sealing a 25 per cent stake in the newly formed ISL franchise, with the stake raising to 50 per cent in the second year.

"We have agreed on the number," revealed Parth Jindal, the son of Sajjan Jindal, JSW Group chairman to The Economic Times.

The club was all set to name Paul Jewell as their head coach and were in discussions with several top marquee players too.

Then there was a twist in the tale when a senior ISL official informed Sun Group that their association with JSW wouldn’t stand. According to sources close to Goal, the Spice-Jet owners intimated the organisers that should their alliance with JSW doesn’t stand then they wouldn’t want to be a part of the ISL given that the two companies were working together for the last month or so.

Ananth Nagarajan, Head of Sports for Sun Group, refused to confirm or deny the developments by stating, “I cannot comment on this.”

In the third week of August, a joint statement was issued by the Sun Group and IMG-Reliance which read:  “Sun Group had arrived at the decision after internal deliberation and discussion, and wish to thank the ISL management for all their support.”

In came Chennaiyin FC with Vita Dani, Abhishek Bachchan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the franchise owners and have since gone on to be one of the most successful teams in the competition.

With Bengaluru FC now winning the bid to own an ISL franchise from the Garden City, fans in Bangalore will no more be deprived of ISL action. It took over three years for this to fructify as the ISL has evolved by expanding its format to a five-month affair for the 2017-18 season.

“We're glad that our bid to be part of the ISL has been okayed. A lot of time and thought has gone into our decision of wanting to be part of the league. The biggest factor has been the interest of the long-term future of Indian football. A longer league is the right road ahead," said club CEO Parth Jindal.

"Being part of the ISL will improve our commercial viability that then lets us do a lot more with our youth academy. We are excited to create new rivalries and keep old ones going should the new format allow us to come up against each other. A key aspect is we still get to chase our quest for the AFC Cup,” he added.

It has taken a while but now one can safely proclaim, 'Bengaluru, konege ISL ge svagata'.