It’s very often told by many that the future of football in Indian football is the Indian Super League (ISL) – which is the new born baby of AIFF and Reliance led FSDL organisation. It started with a 2 month masala tournament and was then forced to extend for a greater part of the footballing season from 2017-2018. All pundits claim that this new tournament upsets the legacy iLeague tournament, that had been carrying Indian football for last 10 years or so.
Is the above the ultimate truth or a myth backed up by vicious propaganda and intense marketing?
Well, let’s try to analyse the context of the last year’s leagues run in 2018-2019 and how popular are those when it comes to match attendances. First comes the context and undoubtedly, the traditional iLeague has faced hostility from not just the ISL, but also the so-called neutral body who is accountable for both of them – the body named All India Football Federation (AIFF):
- At the beginning of the season, AIFF promised that not only iLeague is the top most domestic Indian football league, but also will be provided equal TV coverage backed up an equal amount of marketing and advertisement. Finally this turned out to be the biggest lie of the year!!
- There was a huge difference in marketing and advertisement for ISL and iLeague, with the latter taking the brunt of poor marketing and a hostile step-father in the name of AIFF
- Many of the iLeague matches were forced to start in the middle of the searing heat at 3.00 pm, whereas all ISL matches started either in late afternoon or in the evening
- The TV coverages were horrible for iLeague in all matches with lesser number of in-field cameras and none was telecast in HD. On the otherhand, all ISL matches coverage was in HD with a huge number of TV cameras covering different aspects of the matches
- Finally in the later stages, all of a sudden, live TV coverages were just stopped for some iLeague matches for reasons not known or understood by most of the spectators. And no explanations were provided by either AIFF nor the TV broadcasters
In spite of all the hostilities faced by iLeague, let’s see the average attendance numbers between ISL and iLeague:
- ISL averaged 12768 in attendances against an equivalent iLeague number of 10059. No wonder, when AIFF and ISL realised that they are not that popular any more as compared to iLeague, they went all out to try and kill the iLeague in the final stages by stopping live telecasts, etc.
- If we analyse the top 3 clubs from both the tournaments, the average attendances for iLeague clubs were more than the ISL ones:
- Quess East Bengal (iLeague) : 25004
- Jamshedpur FC (ISL) : 20016
- Neroca FC (iLeague) : 19137
- ATK (ISL) : 18307
- Mohun Bagan : 17646
- FC Goa (ISL) : 16219
Now, if we try to benchmark the average attendances for the entire tournament with the leading leagues of the world for the season of 2018-2019, definitely both the Indian tournaments have much work to catch up:
League Average Attendance
Bundesliga (Germany) 43458
English Premier League 38168
La Liga (Spain) 26843
Serie A (Italy) 25237
ISL (India) 12768
iLeague (India) 10059
With these numbers, hopefully people will realise the following key points:
- In spite of performing under tremendous hostility, iLeague did fantastically well as compared to ISL and has the potential to become the most popular league in India
- Individual top clubs in iLeague has more fan following that ISL clubs, which was reflected in the match attendances
If both tournaments are given a level playing field, iLeague any day will definitely surpass ISL in terms of fan following and match attendances. Now, AIFF has sold their body and soul to ISL – so, no wonder, they are now all up in arms to kill the iLeague; as otherwise, their own survival is under threat !!!