All India Football Federation President (AIFF) Praful Patel assured the I-League clubs that their future is secure and both the Indian leagues will co-exist for sometime from now. Praful Patel along with AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das and I-League CEO Sunando Dhar met with the representatives of ten I-League clubs to discuss the status of leagues in Indian Football.
Patel said he will seek the Asian Football Confederation’s approval for the current status quo to be maintained for another 2-3 years, by which time he hopes all the stakeholders will reach to a consensus. “We don’t want to pack up the I-League. It should continue. But ultimately there should be a roadmap of Indian football. Two leagues cannot go on permanently. The AFC will also not allow it forever. It is just a solution for the time being,” Patel said after the meeting.
Out of the ten teams, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC, NEROCA, Gokulam Kerala and Shillong Lajong – are a united front on the issue while I-League champions Chennai City opted to not be part of the alliance during the Super Cup tournament. Real Kashmir FC, who were promoted to the top division last season, did not join the group but a representative of the club attended the meeting. The clubs are seeking clarification on the move to promote ISL as the top tier league in Indian football as per the agreement between AIFF and IMG-Reliance. If the AIFF grants top league status to ISL, the winning team of the ISL is expected to play in the AFC Champions League — Asia’s top tier club competition — qualifying round. Till now, the I-League champion team has been getting that chance to play in the AFC Champions League.
“AIFF and the Hero I-League Clubs have agreed and will work together to find a solution to all issues including the calendar, scheduling, broadcasting, and the continuation of the Hero I-League for a defined period, till the roadmap is ascertained in a time-bound manner in consultation with FSDL, and the AFC,” said the AIFF in a press release.