For a long time, one of the crucial factors behind the success of the Premier League in England has been the excitement levels that have been drummed up through the battle for survival in the top tier of football.

It would seem that the Indian Super League are now bidding to follow in those tracks with the recent announcement that relegations and promotions will be introduced from the start of the 2023-24 season.

How It Came Around

The ISL will replace the I-League as the premier competition in India following the domestic reforms that were made at a meeting in October involving officials from the All India Football Federation and the AFC. All parties formally agreed to the new changes, with a few subtle changes to be made to appease everybody involved.

The ISL champions will be guaranteed a playoff place in the AFC Champions League, while the I-League champions will be rewarded with a place in the AFC Cup. Dato Windsor John, who is the AFC General Secretary, revealed in a statement after the decision that it was the only logical way for the Indian game to grow. He said: “Everyone has to put the good of Indian football at the forefront and make the best decisions to develop Indian club football.”

The Roadmap

The route to the ISL is now as clear as it is for NFL sides to reach the Super Bowl, and the Super League will attain its status as the top level of club competition in the country. Besides the special adjustment that we mentioned previously, the new changes will also see the winning ISL side represent the country in the AFC Champions League playoffs, while the I-League winners will play in the AFC Cup playoff.

The other change will see a pathway to the ISL for two I-League clubs by the end of the 2020-21 season. That also leads nicely into the changes for the 2022-23 season which will see I-League sides given a chance of promotion without having to pay a participation fee. However, relegation wouldn’t be fully implemented until the start of the 2024-25 season. That will be the first season when there will be an end to the two parallel leagues.

Advantages and Disadvantages

It has been a long time coming for the ISL to implement promotions and relegations, and the league now follows in the footsteps of the MLS who also made the transition official earlier in the year. They are very late to this party as most elite league around the world have had this structure in place for many years. The pros do outweigh the cons when it comes to the system and most of which revolve around the fairness of it.

The fact that some sides in the lower tiers may have been performing excellently for many years without a real reward would damage the game. It will reward those that are excelling in the second tier and punish those that are just happy to turn up in the ISL without being as competitive as they should be. Financially it will also make sense, and the addition of the new layout will increase the investment opportunities in the league.

Of course, with the advantages, there also comes those that would not appreciate the move. These people’s arguments would mostly lament the size of the stadiums that sides who could be potentially promoted have. The stadiums may not be fit for purpose in the ISL, and many owners may look at the newly promoted sides and be disappointed given how much they have put into the ISL team.

However, there is no denying that the new layout will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the game, and that could be seen on the national stage as the quality of Indian players will improve following this decision.