Football is the most popular sport all over the world with some exceptions. USA and India are two of those exceptions in the world.
USA has a very unique sports culture and history based on many sports like American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Track & Field even Lacrosse and Fitness. There is a very significant fact; Americans love sports; they watch sports at their local pubs and they love to recreationally play at least one sport in their life. But on the other hand, football (soccer) was not one of their favourite sports in USA. They brought so many stars like Pele or Beckenbauer during the final years of their careers. But this strategy didn’t pay off in the short or long run.
MLS is the top division football league in the USA. It was established just before 1990 FIFA World Cup as a part of being selected host country for the FIFA world cup 1994. It was a very tiny organisation without any commercial or media partners. But as time has passed, MLS along with the sport of football has been growing consistently in the states. Obviously it is not as big as the NFL, MLB or NBA but it is getting more popular among Americans day by day.
The structure is very American at MLS; instead of operating as an association of independently owned teams, MLS is a single entity in which each team is owned and controlled by the league’s investors.
MLS comprises 22 teams: 19 in the USA and 3 in Canada. The MLS regular season runs from March to October, with each team playing 34 games.
Major League Soccer took steps to further raise the level of play by adopting the “Designated Player Rule”, which helped bring international stars into the league. The 2007 seasonwitnessed the MLS debut of David Beckham. Beckham’s signing had been seen as a coup for American soccer, and was made possible by the Designated Player Rule.
All commercial, marketing and media operations are centralised at MLS but despite central operations, clubs have very important marketing and commercial initiatives. For example; MLS team Orlando City FC organised a scavenger hunt around the city in order to build a fan base. They used social media platforms very effectively for this campaign. Or award winning seasonal ticket box with a special club branded bracelet of Toronto FC.
MLS adopted two significant changes from football (soccer) as the rest of the world played it in accordance with perception of American people. First game clocks in stadiums would count down from forty five mins to zero, opposite to the customary count up from zero, with referees monitoring the time and determining when half time ends. Second, if a game istied after ninety minutes, MLS would use a penalty shootout system to decide a winner.
There is another fast growing football league approx. 13,568km away from USA; it is in India. The Indian Super League is the top division football league of India. For sponsorship reasons, the league is officially known as the Hero Indian Super League. Although football is not a primary sport for Indians and it is very obvious that Indians love cricket, but the Indian Super League growing rapidly in India.
Indian Super League was founded only four years ago in 2013 in partnership with IMG, Reliance Industries, and Star Sports.
From the 2017–18 season, the Indian Super League will run from November to March. Indian Super League comprises 8 teams in two groups with a set of play-offs and then a final match determining the winner of the league. It is fresh, fast and easily consumable entertainment tool for fans.
Indian Super League adapted “player draft system” and “designated player rule” under a different name from MLS.
Average attendance is more than 20,000 at Indian Super League games and more than 25,000 in the MLS. If you compare these attendance figures with European leagues, success of those two very new leagues is very obvious.
Both leagues have no relegation or promotion system. This system has some advantages and disadvantages. But building youth academy system on colleges and universities and player draft system works perfectly in USA.
These two leagues have some similarities but they have one common characteristic as well; they both would be a very good model for the leagues in GCC Countries.
The leagues in GCC Countries can easily adapt rules like foreign players quota, designated player rule, play-off system and on top of rules, they can adapt out of the box creativity, running effective marketing campaigns and usage of digital platforms from MLS and Indian Super League.
MLS and Indian Super League discovered the power of creativity in order to change the sport environment in their countries. They mobilized their sources with high level creativity to gain success. And GCC Countries can do the same with big success.