The Indian Super League is now competing with Australia’s A-League when it comes to providing financial benefits to players. Once seen as a benchmark for the rise of club football in Asia, the A-League has found tough competition from India’s premier football league, says a report published in Ftbl.com.au.
According to the report, the ISL’s rapid growth has resulted in increased financial clout, ‘making the league much more appealing to a wider range of quality players at younger ages than ever before.’ Roy Krishna last year bagged around a 15 percent hike in salary with a USD 3,75,000 (approx.) annual contract with ATK, after spending six seasons at Wellington Phoenix, winning the A-League Golden Boot preceding the 2019-20 season.
ISL clubs have continued to make smart acquisitions from the A-League heading into the 2020-21 season. Gary Hooper joins Kerala Blasters, while 25-year-old Australian defender Jacob Tratt joins Odisha FC and Joel Chianese moves to Hyderabad FC, both from Perth Glory. Adam Le Fondre (Sydney FC) and Brad Inman (Brisbane Roar) continued to be heavily linked with transfers to Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan respectively.
Bengaluru FC CEO, Mandar Tamhane recently pointed out that ISL clubs are no minnows when it comes to player remuneration.
“We are probably one of the top 5 nations in Asia if you discount the Middle East countries. But, if you look at the eastern side of Asia, and look at China, Korea, Japan, the ISL is competing with them in terms of wages. In the initial years of ISL, we had marquees, creating an awareness that there is a league in India called the ISL where Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka come and play. That’s why we have been able to convince some really good talents to come and play in India,” he said.
An Asian football industry expert said, “The A-League has run into trouble with the broadcasters Fox Sports, who have halved their AUD 57 million annual funding. This coupled with the post-COVID-19 football market, clubs have told players to accept up to 30 per cent pay cuts. No wonder an ISL contract will be much more alluring as Indian football continues to invest and grow.”
The ISL’s clear roadmap and expansion plans are starting to overshadow the Australian structure. While the ISL aims to introduce promotion from 2024-25 onwards, the Football Federation of Australia Chairman Chris Nikou does not see such implementation anytime before 2034. The ISL was accorded top-flight status by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) last year and the winners are now guaranteed a direct group stage spot in the Asian Champions League, a first.
According to David Williams, who joined Roy Krishna from Wellington to ATK, the atmosphere in the ground after his side’s semi-final win over Bengaluru last season was ‘something never experienced before’. Apart from the monetary benefits, playing in front of passionate fans is an added advantage.
With ATK joining forces with Mohun Bagan, and East Bengal possibly joining soon, the ISL will become an 11-team affair with the league progressing structurally. The rapid strides made by ISL in the global arena is attested by the investment from Manchester City’s parent organisation, City Football Group (CFG), in Mumbai City FC.