Indian Super League: Sporting Development and Future Opportunities

Strategy Briefing

About This Report

Oct 2017

Take one rapidly developing country, add the prestige of a national industrial champion, the operational know-how of IMG and sports broadcasting expertise of Star TV, and mix with a generous sprinkling of Bollywood and cricketing stardust… This report examines the rise of Indian Super League, assessing matchday trends as well as the online footprint and partnership structure for each club. It provides strategic insight to any organisation considering ISL’s investment or partnership potential.

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Indian Super League: Sporting Development and Future Opportunities

Indian Super League poised to reach a number of key milestones

The coming 2017-18 season will see the league extended by two months and an additional two teams/franchises entering the competition. India’s capacity to host major football competitions will be further tested by the FIFA Under-17 World Cup during October 2017, which will mostly be played in ISL venues.

All signs point to a continued reliance on industrial and celebrity benefactors

A convergence of media, celebrity and business interests has been key to the success of the ISL to date. Administration of the league has also benefited from a more commercially driven approach than the officially sanctioned I-League.

Anyone looking to invest should be prepared to play a (very) long game

Anyone expecting the predictions of commercial viability within five years of the Indian Super League’s launch is certain to be disappointed. The market is huge, the potential is great, but benefactors are likely to remain critical to the sustainability of the league for the foreseeable future: ticketing income for the most successful team (Atletico de Kolkata) was less than USD1 million in 2016.

International beneficiaries remain centred on ageing talent

The case for international investment in Indian Super League teams has been tested, but remains unproven. To date, ageing players and managers are the most direct international beneficiaries of the league’s initial success.

International club and league brands have attempted to partner with ISL teams but with little tangible success

Spanish (Atletico Madrid), Dutch (Feyenoord) and Italian (Fiorentina) clubs have sought to establish high-profile partnerships with Indian Super League teams, but so far with no discernible success. Meanwhile, the efforts of Premier League teams has focused on development-based partnerships. These appear to have had a minimal direct impact to date, although the Premier League is popular in India.


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Key findings

Key findings


Indian Super League: Club locations and urban populations
Background to Indian Super League: A convergence of special interests...
…with official recognition and expanded season proof of a continued rise

Market Overview

Background to Indian Super League: One Game, Two Guv’nors
Rising popularity of league as a whole belies regional variations
Significant demographic variations for fans of each ISL club

Matchday Trends

League capacity and attendances fall in 2016 due to ground changes
Ticket prices higher than I-League but still relatively low
Market size is proving less critical than a passionate local fan base
Attendances and sell-out ratios by Indian Super League club


At a league level, partnerships are clearly category-led
Market position for prominent Indian Super League sponsors/partners


Club ownership highlights unique mix of celebrity, industry, media
Club profile: Atletico de Kolkata (now Amar Tomar Kolkata - ATK)
Club profile: Chennaiyin FC
Club profile: Delhi Dynamos FC
Club profile: FC Goa
Club profile: Kerala Blasters FC
Club profile: Mumbai City FC
Club profile: NorthEast United FC
Club profile: FC Pune City
Two new expansion teams have less glamour and more industry

Future Outlook

Future forecast: Indian Super League is here to stay…
…But investors and partners must be prepared to play a long game