Can AIFF present a future plan acceptable to all I-League & ISL clubs?

AIFF logoThe All India Football Federation has a few days left until Sunday, July 31 to present a plan for the future Indian club football structure to convince the Goan I-League clubs in Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa besides maybe Dempo SC to continue to play in the top tier of Indian club football.

It is a difficult call that the AIFF and their marketing partners IMG-Reliance have to take as the roadmap with three divisions – Indian Super League, League One (formerly I-League) and League Two (formerly Second Division League) makes sense to create one national club calendar and not have ISL and I-League being played after another, but to just keep the eight ISL franchises, add two/three I-League teams plus maybe an expansion team to create a new 12 team top tier, isn’t fair to the I-League club, who have been the backbone of club football in India over the last decades.

But the question remains, if the AIFF and IMG-Reliance can fulfil the demands of Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa, which has the support from other I-League teams, even from the Kolkata giants in champions Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, despite these two being seen as candidates to be inducted into the new expanded top tier ISL.

The Goan Clubs (Salgaocar FC & Sporting Clube de Goa) had put forward the below mentioned principal points:

– No forced relegation of the I-League to a second tier league from the nation’s premier competition. All teams qualified for the I-League should be part of the top league.
– No bidding & no franchise fees for existing I-League clubs, merit being the only qualifying factor.
– All governance issues should rest with AIFF exclusively.

Now an even further expanded ISL with 16, maybe even 17 teams is not feasible at this stage with the ISL having to change its franchise agreements, which amongst other things guarantee exclusivity in a certain city and/or state depending on size and importance.

There is already talk of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal having to leave Kolkata for Atletico de Kolkata to remain the only team of the City of Joy or teams even merging, on the other hand would the small state of Goa be able to sustain FC Goa plus two or three further teams in Salgaocar FC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Dempo SC.

And with the new expanded ISL having to fall in line with the AFC regulations for India to retain its AFC Champions League qualifier spot plus another in the AFC Cup like the three plus one Asian foreign players rule would mean more Indian footballers in the top tier. Do we have enough footballers to fill all these slots?

Questions over questions remain and no solution in sight as the AIFF and IMG-Reliance have a maximum of five more days to present a roadmap acceptable to Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa or otherwise they will have been I-League clubs and the federation will have to think hard about how to play the I-League in a year of transition ahead of the big changes next season.

Tough decisions are needed, but also acceptable solutions which take Indian football forward…

About Arunava Chaudhuri

Check Also

Tiri pens extension with Mumbai City FC!

Mumbai City FC have announced that Spanish defender José Luis Espinosa Arroyo, better known as …