When the Indian Super League began in late 2014, India became one of the very few countries in the world to have two league competitions. The ISL and the more conventional I-League remain two separate tournaments. However, it has often been suggested that the merger of the two leagues would be better for the development of the game in the country.
At the start of the ISL, many major I-League sides refused to release their players for the newly-formed league. However, if the two competitions merge, stakeholders in both the entities will have a common ground to work on. The pool of teams in the I-League can be improved and the league can expand from its current 11-team size. Many lesser Indian players, who failed to earn big-money contracts with the ISL, will be able to flourish while playing with illustrious foreign players and managers. All these factors will greatly contribute to the betterment of the game in country and perhaps help with the development of the national team, who have been abject at the ongoing World Cup qualifying matches. It will also prevent burnout as players wouldn’t be forced in to playing two highly competitive leagues every year.
The ISL has done a great job of attracting celebrities to the beautiful game. Well known personalities like Nita Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Ranbir Kapoor amongst others are closely associated with teams in the newly-formed league and their active involvement with the venture has played a significant part in attracting new viewers to the beautiful game. At a time when football has struggled for attention in competition with other sports, it is great for new fans to flock to the stadiums to cheer for their local teams.
The short duration of the tournament ensures that the celebrities involved with the teams are actively seen with their sides. If the ISL merges with the traditional I-League, the same would be hard to ensure. Also, the corporate investment in the ISL is no match to what I-League attracts and the merger of the two can significantly impact investment which may slow down the much-needed traction that football is finally getting in the country.