The USA and China have done it, and rather unsurprisingly, India are set to follow suit. A brand new domestic football league inspired by the success of the Indian Premier League cricket competition is set to commence in late 2014, and will feature a number of ex-international players, including Dwight Yorke, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Louis Saha and Hernan Crespo. Kenny Dalglish, Peter Schmeichel and Marcel Desailly will manage three of the eight sides, and plenty more big names are set to be announced in the future.
The Indian Super League will focus not only upon attracting stars from abroad, but also on improving the standard of Indian footballers. Each of the eight teams will be allowed 10 foreigners, and four of their remaining players must be from their respective local areas.
Football has become extremely popular in India in recent years, with over 150 million people tuning into the Premier League, however their current domestic competition is largely neglected by fans of the sport.
There is certainly a market for such a project, however it is unlikely to ever rival the IPL in terms of popularity.
The IPL attracts a global audience due to the pool of world class players participating, and a host of ex-players years past their peak, lured out of retirement by an enormous pay check, are unlikely to command such worldwide appeal. Bollywood dancers and fireworks may add to the experience for an Indian audience, however for viewers in other countries it will do little to disguise the fact that the standard of football is relatively poor.
The fundamental issue with the tournament is the timing of it. Being halfway through the domestic season in most European countries means that contracted players would be unable to participate, and only those either unemployed or previously retired could take part. Furthermore, each season lasts only three months, with a mere 14 games being played by each team. Surely no player in their prime would elect to play in such a league, regardless of how much money is offered?
Of course, the Indian Super League will captivate a national audience and inspire millions of children to play football. Attendance figures are predicted to be high, particularly for any club emulating the kit colours of Manchester United. It will be a vast improvement upon the current domestic football setup, and despite the obvious factors which will possibly reduce global interest, its benefits should not be ignored; one of India’s favourite sports will finally be done justice.