Number of Teams: 14
Relegation to: I-League Second Division
Domestic Cups: Federation Cup
Current Champions: Salgaocar SC
Most number of Championships: Dempo SC (2)
Following the decline of the old National Football League, the All India Football Federation created the I-League in 2007. The league consisted of 10 teams – 8 from the old NFL and two newly promoted teams from the former Division 2.
For the first time ever clubs were allowed to recruit four foreign players, although only three were allowed on the pitch at any one time. The I-League was designed to change the way Indian clubs approached football, with all clubs required to have a minimum of 14 professional players and an U19 development squad.
The inaugural I-League kicked off on 24 November 2007 with the game between Dempo SC and Salgaocar SC and it would be Dempo SC that would take out the inaugural I-League title.
The following season a further two teams were added, taking the total to 12, and for the first time the league winner would qualify for the AFC Champions League, while the bottom placed side would be relegated.
The league expanded again soon after to 14 teams, but with the introduction of stricter club licensing criteria by the AFC, expansion has halted at 14 as the AIFF look to develop what is already there. In the 2010/11 season the AIFF introduced the Indian Arrows, the Indian U21 side, with the aim of advancing their developing with an eye on qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Despite these advances issues still remain, particularly around finance. Many clubs struggle to make money and two clubs have already disbanded due to financial strain – Mahindra United and JCT. And in a country of more than 1 billion people, attracting people to the games remains a problem, with the average crowd only just under 4000.
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