The franchise base price of Indian Super League (ISL), the three-month football extravaganza that is expected to kick off in January 2014, will be Rs 25 crore, according to sources.While this is much higher than what franchise owners paid in theIndian Badminton League (Rs 3.5 crore) and in the Hero Hockey India League (Rs 10 crore), those in the know said interested parties will be ready to pay Rs 25 crore for ISL tournaments.ISL is a 30:70 joint venture between STAR India and IMG- Reliance. The partners will invest Rs 1,500 crore over the next 10 years to improve, popularise and develop football in India. Star India will be the official broadcaster.Uday Shankar, CEO of STAR India, says: “India is hungry for its second sport. Combining top-notch infrastructure with our expertise in sports production, our attempt is to bring an unparalleled football experience to our viewers. Unlike in cricket, where the sports is already developed and we have taken broadcasting rights, here we have to build the sports from the scratch. That is why we have invested in the company.”In its first season, the tournament will have teams from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Goa and Pune. The teams will include a minimum of 22 players including one marquee player, international stars and leading Indian footballers. A team can have up to nine international players (including the marquee player) and 13 Indian players of which three should be from the under-23 pool. If a franchise wants to have more than 22 players, it can choose from the local player pool. IMG-Reliance has signed on 67 players from India, according to sources.Shankar adds, “We will look at international players who are veterans or emerging to be part of the team. However, we are also looking at the availability of some star players, as most of them have a heavy schedule and, for instance, are booked for eight-to-10 months in the European Premier League. It is not a question of money, but we have to see whether we can get them to play a few games.”He said ISL would be able to make money after four years, with the first few years being the investment phase.The application forms for franchise bids will be available from the October last week and the winning bids will be announced around November 10. The auction for players will happen in the last week of December. Sources reveal that celebrities and Indian Premier League franchise owners have evinced interest in the football tournament.Indranil Blah, chief operating officer of CAA Kwan, says, “It makes sense for IPL franchise owners like Shah Rukh Khan and Sun to be interested in ISL. Internationally, clubs have presence in more than one sport. The franchise owners will look to increase their popularity and hold of the team in the city by investing in different sports, and football is the second most popular sport.”ISL also presents an opportunity for companies that want to have presence in sports but cannot afford an IPL franchise. According to sources, the investment required in this case is just one-tenth of cricket and the returns on investment are comparatively satisfying.
So far, no sponsors or partners have been announced for the tournament. Blah says, “Advertisers will look for on-field and off-field action like in the IPL, where the matches are entertaining and so is the off-the field programming.”One challenge that ISL may face is that most of the international players set to join the league are either retired or about to retire and, hence, the hype around them may not be too high.The I-league (the professional league for association football clubs) management had earlier raised objections to players from its tournament playing for the IMG-Reliance property. The issue, however, has been resolved and the two tournaments will now exchange players, provided it is conducive to both.