When the Indian Super League was launched in 2014 amidst much fanfare and patronage of the country’s bigwigs from the corporate sector, there was no certainty about how the whole concept would be accepted by the wider Indian public. But the figures from the first season were very encouraging as the Indian football-loving public made their presence felt at the stadiums match after match. The ISL is still in its infancy; however, its acceptance thus far means the league is looking for a brighter future as it matures.
During the match days most of the venues saw full occupancy, whether the games was in football-crazed state of West Bengal, the equally fervent north east region of the country, or the national capital Delhi. Most stadiums were either sold out or filled out over 90 per cent of the seats on match days.
And more concrete figures of the league’s attraction came out when it was revealed that the Indian Super League was the most viewed football league in Asia. It is astonishing that the first season of a football league in a cricket-crazy nation had better attendance figures than some of the traditional powerhouses of Asian football: Japan, South Korea and China amongst others. Not just that most of the Asian football heavyweights have football as the country’s most followed sport unlike India, making the attendance figures all the more impressive.
Heavy traffic around the stadia on the match days was a common sight in all venues hosting matches as the Indian football lovers made their presence felt at the football matches. Although the ISL, with an average attendance of approximately 23,000 fans per league game, faded in comparison to the Bundesliga (average attendance 43,501 in the 2013/14 season), the Premier League (36,657) and La Liga (26,955), it is important to note that where the major European leagues have been in existence for decades and most of the European countries have football as their main sport, India is relatively new to the sport and football has to compete with cricket for the viewers’ eyeballs.
Another figure that augurs well for the future of the Indian Super League is the revenue it generated. In the inaugural season it raked in €69.5m, more than established leagues like the Australian A League and the Israeli Premier League.
By all estimates, the league is shaping up well and if it continues on the same trajectory it will be a lucrative league for the stakeholders in the venture.