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Can the I-League survive in parallel to the Indian Super League?

Many think and believe that the I-League cannot and will not survive if played in parallel to the Indian Super League as the ISL owners and marketing body of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) would only focus on the ISL.

The calendar for the 2017/18 season is still unclear but as things stand, the Indian Super League and I-League would be played in parallel for the first time with the I-League still on paper being India’s top tier football league.

The question is, Can the I-League survive in parallel to the Indian Super League?

It surely won’t be an easy task as the FSDL will continue to focus on the ISL, while the I-League will have to fight for its own right of existence as the future road map of Indian club football remains unclear. And that is according to me is a massive chance for the I-League.

The ISL going into its fourth season will be a watered down product from what it was launched as in 2014. Less foreigners, less high profile names, likely less marketing spend means it is a weaker version of itself; while the I-League has learned a thing or two from the ISL and has improved its product despite live television coverage being a massive turn off.

The I-League are losing one of their best run clubs in Bengaluru FC to the ISL, but as of today their biggest draws in Mohun Bagan AC and East Bengal Club will continue to be in the I-League and if the clubs stay united and focused, maybe they can in their own interest keep the I-League surviving, then not all top Indian footballers will get a chance in the ISL, while some might choose the I-League over the ISL and others might opt for the I-League if an ISL draft is held not known which city and franchise they would end up with.

Running the I-League in parallel to the Indian Super League, it has a future in the short-term, but what happens once the new blueprint of Indian club football is out will have to be seen.

About Arunava Chaudhuri

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One comment

  1. The ISL Draft process is a curse to the Indian players and is nothing but modern day
    slavery.Its a myth that Indian players joining the draft process would earn unlimited
    INR. Reliance is not a new name in the Indian industry and Reliance , like most
    other Indian corporate companies doesn’t pay exorbitantly higher than the
    prevailing salary standard in the industry.

    If East Bengal and Mohun Bagan can afford to pay Debjit 20 lacs may be ISL
    would fix his rate at 24 lac. Why will any company pay Debjit 50 lacs ? No sane
    business entity would do that.On the contrary Debjit could have bargained with
    East Bengal and Mohun Bagan ,and hopefor a 25 lac from EB or MB.
    With the draft process there is no bargain.

    A player who might have earned 1 lac in the previous I-league but played
    tremendously well , ( like many from Aizwal FC) could have hoped for a great hike
    in salary once he started negotiating with multiple clubs of the I-league.What would
    happen to this guy in this case ? With whom shall he bargain ? He has to settle down
    with whatever ISL management would decide as his fixed salary.So, in many cases I
    expect players to suffer financial loss by joining the draft process.

    Some of the players like Mehtab are also employed in various Govenment jobs in
    different cities.If Mehtab is picked by a Kerala based ISL club in the draft process,
    he would then likely find it difficult to retain his job.Till last year ISL was a 3-4
    month affair but now Mehtab would have to live the whole year away from Kolkata.
    Since the ISL wants official AFC recognition so the ISL clubs would have to
    somehow exist for 12 months..

    Recently each of the ISL clubs have published the names of 2 players whom they
    would like to retain from their last year squad and who would therefore not go through the Draft process. I believe this announcement assumes that the concerned
    player has an existing valid contract with the ISL club wherein he had played in the
    last ISL.This is probably not true in most of the cases. eg if media reports are
    correct then Debjit Majumder , the goalie , is now a free agent. If he wishes to play
    the ISL then he would be forced to play the ISL with whatever fixed salary is set up for him by IMGR. However, if Debjit Majumder is unhappy with the offer from
    IMGR then he can easily join East Bengal or Mohun Bagan if the offer from these 2
    clubs is better than what would be offered by IMGR.

    In this season the total budget of each ISL club is 18 crore. Each ISL club would
    sign 8 foreigners and 17 Indians.Since in the last season of ISL most of the
    foreigners were signed on lien for 4 months and in this season it would be nearly a
    12 month contract , so I expect the ISL clubs to spend not less than 12 crore on
    hiring the 8 foreigners. That would leave around 6 crores to be spent on 17 Indian
    players.So, I would not be surprised if some of these Indian players who were
    initially thinking of joining the ISL draft process and earn endless money , now start
    to think different.We must remember that the draft process is only advantageous for
    IMGR. It helps IMGR to pre-fix the salary of an Indian player and prevent the
    player from increasing his salary by negotiating with multiple interested clubs.Its an
    absolute financial loss and loss of personal freedom for the Indian player.

    We should also think of the social disgrace of the Indian player who remains unsold
    in the draft process. In an open market process its not a disgrace or humiliation
    when a player finds it hard to find a club.If an Indian player is not selected in draft
    then its a national news that the concerned player has been rejected and not wanted
    for by 10 ISL clubs.He would then be at the mercy of the I-league clubs and his
    expected salary would receive a serious beating.

    On 24-June Mohun Bagan announced that they have resolved their internal
    administrative problems and would now aggresively start building the team. I would
    not be surprised if Mohun Bagan and East Bengal now start poaching on the
    players of Bengaluru FC whose contract with BFC has expired.
    I would also not be surprised if foreigners liks Sony Norde and Katsumi visualizes
    the real truth and decide to stay back with Mohun Bagan. I am sure that out of the
    8 foreigners , 5 will be well paid by the ISL club and the remaining 3 would not get
    more than what would be offered by clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

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