During this period of Indian Football revolution , the ISL-ILeague merger topic remains the most discussed topic on every day basis among the small yet vocal population of Indian Football Community. Because of its need and importance , this topic finds its place on the tongues of every Indian Football pundits and fans. Since we’ve already discussed a lot about how did it (two top tier leagues) all began , we are not going to dig deep , we will just discuss about the benefits that the merged league could bring in to this vast nation , that finds itself on 101st position at the latest FIFA Rankings and of course , has an ongoing tussle with AIFF and I-League clubs which is kind of sorted out via a meeting. But that’s totally a different topic , let’s do the aftermath of the ISL-Ileague merger.
We have always talked about various formats and crazy new ideas about how the domestic structure should look like. Now , to reduce the complexity , let’s be straight forward & let us go with a proper league with 20 clubs and another 20-24 in division one and two respectively.
1) More number of matches for a player per season :
With the current structure , an I League or ISL club plays 20 to 22 matches in a season on an average , including their respective League games and the Super Cup. Now , compare this with those of top leagues in Asia and Europe , you’ll find out that the top leagues across the world/Asia , play around 40 to 45 matches on an average , which is twice the number of games a club gets to play in India. Take an example of Tajikistan , which has just 8 teams in its league , but all the teams face more than twice against each other , which makes the league longer and hence , more number of games for all the clubs, same goes with A-League too with just 10 clubs in its League. More number of matches means more number of opportunities for the players to gelled up with each other , which in turn helps a club to deliver better in the continental games , since the team members develop good understanding between themselves after playing for months. Lesser matches might also be one of the reasons why our clubs aren’t doing well in the AFC Club competitions. Also , the team which becomes Champions will have to be consistent through out the year, along with the same players who got them the Championship. This should help them in continental competitions, since the team image won’t get altered much and the same consistent team can deliver better performance in the AFC club competitions.
2) More job opportunities for players :
Currently , if we consider all I League and ISL Clubs , we have a player pool of around 250 to 350 , which is extremely low considering the magnitude of our population. A unified league , with a vast 2nd division and 3rd division , would provide more Indian players to showcase their potential and come up through the ranks. The premier league functions in the similar way but at a bigger level. The second division English clubs fight hard and make it to the top tier leagues which is EPL , eventually the top 8-10 clubs buy these young/talented players from these small clubs to strengthen their squad. And this inturn gives a young player to groom with the top class facilities and equally better players.
3) Opportunity for coaches :
With league getting bigger and more number of clubs participating across divisions , more number of Indian Coaches will get to rub their shoulders with some of the experienced foreign coaches , which will be of a great value. Since they are ones who have to work and connect with players at the elementary level. They act as a bridge between the new players and the foreign coach. Also, this will increase the pool of coaches acoss the country. Which is as important as pool of players. More number of coaches might get a job at small academies or local clubs. These coaches can help the kids at smaller level with their AFC A, B or C certificates and they also form a pillar of grassroots development as well.
4) Referees :
One of the major complaints from the fans is about the quality of referees in the top tier leagues. With the merged league , the referees will be assured of getting jobs throughout the year , which might translate into better officiating of matches as lack of job insecuirity might improve the quality of the men with the whistle.
5) Greater marketing opportunities :
If in ISL the Kolkata Giants plays, the broadcaster would get more scope of Marketing. Apart from the Derby. The broadcaster with smart strategy can create new rivalry between ATK and Other two Kolkata Giants. Creat big derby in Kerala etc. This will definitely help in attracting old and new audiences. Moreover, the fans of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are quite vocal in Social media. When the debate between in social media changes from ISL vs I league to MB vs KBFC or EB vs KBFC. It will surely attract eyes on other people, inturn making the unified league a great success.
After these pros discussed above , comes a a worry about the financial aspect of the league. All the top leagues around the world acheive financial gains mostly through the selling of television rights. The fans need to involve in that aspect of the league. This is a tried and tested method and if it works elsewhere , there is no reason why it shouldn’t work in India. Remember, I-League gained some good viewership and attendance even with little to no promotion from anywhere.
With so many benefits , hope this universally accepted structure is implemented in India.