ISL approves four foreign players regulation for 2021-22 season

Edu Garcia celebrates after scoring in the 2019-20 ISL final. The new regulations will see the number of non-Asian foreigners in the playing XI reduced to three. Ron Gaunt / SPORTZPICS for ISL

The Indian Super League (ISL) on Monday approved 3+1 foreign player regulation for matches of the franchise-based event, bringing it down from the existing five to boost "increased participation" of local players.

As per the new regulation, an ISL club could sign maximum of six foreigners in the squad including a compulsory Asian-origin player, with four foreigners on the field. The regulation will become part of the competition guidelines from the eighth season in 2021-22.

The decision was taken during a Football Sports Development Ltd. (FSDL) meeting attended by its chairperson Nita Ambani and is being communicated with the stakeholders including clubs and the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

The move is expected to boost increased participation of Indian players in the top-flight competition. Currently, an ISL club is allowed to sign up to seven international players and play a maximum of five on the field.

"ISL has always exhibited a progressive and adaptive nature to their operations. Since 2014, ISL has improvised on many fronts with each year and today is yet another such example of ISL's forward-looking statement on Indian football," said a football administrator.

"The four foreigners regulation will go a long way in redefining Indian football in the years to come. It''s a positive and welcome step which will benefit our Indian players immensely. The change will certainly open up key positions for Indian players in the lineup," he said.

The ISL was conferred the top football league status in India by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA in 2019. Since the league is now part of the AFC competitive regulations, which govern the 3+1 foreign player rules, the change in foreign player guidelines in Indian football is an important step towards the Indian league aligning to the Asian football international regulations.

"The decision is an outcome of ISL and its clubs' aligned vision with the national federation (AIFF) and a result of joint consultation," the league said.

In May, the AIFF''s executive committee unanimously implemented the ''3 (foreigners) + 1 (Asian) recruit rule'' for I-League matches from 2020-21 season.

Then, the apex body had said the ISL organisers, FSDL, will work with the AIFF and present a plan on the way forward for foreign players in the next couple of months.