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Why the ISL can never be the EPL, either

It just doesn't make sense.

January 19, 2017
isl-india-football

By ArsenalFan700 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Now, you do know the Indian Super League (ISL). 8 franchise teams, the football copy of the IPL, Ranbir, Sachin & Sourav. You do. So, answer me this: who owns the IPL?Duh, the BCCI. Another quick question: who owns the ISL?

The All India Football Federation (AIFF)? Galat jawab.

The ISL is owned by IMG-Reliance and Star India; both of them formed a joint venture to run it. Star owns 35% in it. The rest is owned by IMG-Reliance.

Not the clubs. Not the AIFF. Two third parties, one which has a marketing contract till 2025, and another being a sports broadcasting network, own India’s football league. The clubs which have spent their money in developing India players up till now aren’t even getting a place, forget having a say. Now, the AIFF has shown remarkable haste in making the ISL the premier league for India. A league which it doesn’t even OWN, and probably never will.

FIFA defines a member as ‘an Association that has been admitted into membership of FIFA by the FIFA Congress’. It has a document listing norms for them. Among these, are:

Members have the following obligations:

i) to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties

As plain as possible. Of course, AIFF and IMG-Reliance will circumvent it, somehow. But you, the normal person, now know.

The difference between the ISL and the I-League, after the former’s first season, is this:

Rs 12.45 crore was spent in a day on Indian footballers at the Indian Super League (ISL) auction and draft on Friday, July 10. That’s a little more than what it costs to stage the 11-team I-League on a home-and-away basis for nearly five months.

[Hindustan Times]

Back in 2014, the AIFF banned four clubs (Churchill Brothers, Rangdajied United, United SC and Mohamadden Sporting) for failing to comply with the AIFF licensing system. Firstpost sums up the licensing requirements best:

The AIFF licensing system is heavily based on the AFC system and is divided into five major categories — sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administration, legal and financial.

There are categories within these broad divisions which are graded A, B and C.

– Those requirements which are graded A are must-have’s for the club. If the club fails in any criteria which is graded A, the license will not be given. Example: Having at least two youth teams within the age range of 15 to 21, one youth team within the age range of 10 to 14 and one youth team below the age of 10 are all graded A.

– If the club fails in any requirement graded B, then they will be penalised.

Example: Each stand must provide sufficient toilet facilities for both sexes in accordance with the local authority regulations or the licensor’s requirements. These amenities must include washing facilities with at least cold water and a plentiful supply of towels and/or hand dryers.

– Requirements graded C are those which are in best practice.

Example: To implement a policy to ensure racial equality is upheld and educate its players, management and staff to ensure this goal is achieved.

[Firstpost]

Making ISL the official Indian league will make it mandatory (see the club licensing requirements?) for them to have a youth development program, as well as youth teams. Everything, built from scratch, while our current I-League clubs already have that infrastructure in place. They, however, stand to be removed, while the paying franchises will be allowed to take their own time; a classic case of the two-faced duplicity of the AIFF.

Of course, we can’t generalize. For one, as the below report notes, ‘when the ISL started in 2014, franchises were told to have an academy by season 5 or 2018.’ Further, the franchises have also been at work:

Two ISL franchises have also adopted age-group leagues and Atletico de Kolkata have a team playing in the third division of the Kolkata league. FC Pune City are participating in the under-16 and under-18 I-League this term and have taken over former I-League team Pune FC’s academy.

[HT]

Also, there have been a HELL LOT of activities for kids in different age groups, from different franchises in different cities, which are summed up here.

All of which is said to culminate here:

“The franchisees are identifying the best talent and from here we will handpick a further 200 for the final selection phase in Mumbai. Those selected will be rewarded with a scholarship programme,” said Hubers. The former Netherlands footballer said 24 youngsters — eight in each age group — will be selected for the scholarship programme which would involve staying at the residential academy in Mumbai. The academy — to be set up in Navi Mumbai — will be functional in June.

The trainees will spend four years at the ISL central academy before they graduate and each franchise has been encouraged to start regional academies of their own.

[TOI]

What hurts is that even those clubs which were thrown out of the I-League still have their age group teams playing. Rangdajied United FC, for one, are playing in the Under-18, the Under-16 as well as the Meghalaya football league, Shillong Premier League. Mohamadden Sporting and United Sporting Club were also in action in the Under-16 category, in September last year.

Which is the point: the way the league structure is being proposed, the I-League clubs, the one which have actually put in the work and still are working for Indian football, all of them will be second-class citizens compared to their ISL counterparts.

Can the ISL last?

The finances look steady. At least the names involved in the league, such as ATK co-owner Sanjiv Goenka (chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group which has an asset base of over INR 32,000 crore), NorthEast United FC co-owner Larsing Ming Sawyan (owner of Centre Point Group, which has hotels in the Northeast), and the other businessmen and stars involved should have the appetite to stomach these losses.

How do the ISL clubs earn?

For that matter, broadcast revenue is not shared among ISL clubs either. But there’s a central sponsorship pool—IMG-Reliance and Star use 20% of this money to organize the league. The remaining money is distributed among the clubs (the pool money for the 2015 season was Rs.100 crore). ISL clubs face an operating cost of around Rs.30 crore every season; and when the franchise forms were being distributed, interested parties were clearly told not to expect any returns for at least a decade.

[LiveMint]

In the first season:

Based on conversations with ISL franchise officials, officials at the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and those involved in running the league, it is estimated each of the eight franchises lost between Rs 35-40 crore in the first season.

[Hindustan Times]

In the second season:

This season is set to change all that. Clubs are set to receive their 80 percent share from the Rs 100 crore pool as money from Flipkart, Maruti Suzuki, Volini and DHL pours in. Hero Motocorp remains the biggest contributor with the title sponsorship.

[Firstpost]

And while we don’t have anything for the third season, held in 2016:

Industry sources expect the number of sponsoring brands to touch close to 25 this year compared to 17 last season.

Star and IMG-Reliance together market the ISL. Industry sources said that while the title sponsor spends anywhere between Rs. 18-20 crore, the associate sponsors put in about ₹6-8 crore. Others like shirt sponsorship stands at Rs. 3-5 crore while kit sponsorship stands at Rs. 6 crore.

[Business Line]

Many have compared ISL to the IPL. But with what is slated to happen, the more correct comparison for the ISL will now be the Ranji Trophy. The IPL is upfront about what it is: pure entertainment. The ISL has announced that it has bigger dreams than that, and plans to be the football league for the country. Can it make them reality?

I don’t know. But if it involves burning out almost the whole I-League, this most likely is just another false start.

 


About the author: Hitesh Shetty
Dreams of writing a bestseller and changing the world. When awake, tries to figure out how to do both.

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