Club inputs sought as officials begin roadmap journey for a unified league
In its current form, Indian football has two leagues, something that must be a rarity in itself. During their last meeting with Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur in June, consensus was that
CHENNAI: In its current form, Indian football has two leagues, something that must be a rarity in itself. During their last meeting with Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur in June, a consensus was that a roadmap on a unified league should be prepared by the All India Football Federation, in consultation with the continental body and FIFA, which can take shape from next year.
That process has started, with AFC and FIFA delegates visiting the I-League and ISL clubs in a bid to understand their thoughts on the future. Nic Coward, FIFA consultant, and Alex Phillips, on deputation from UEFA to AFC, along with I-League CEO Sunando Dhar have started their India tour. Key stakeholders IMG-Reliance are also part of the entourage.
The delegation has met Minerva Punjab FC and Chennai City FC. The clubs have been asked to give a presentation on what their vision-mission statement is, what kind of losses they have incurred, average attendance over the course of the last three seasons, whether they comply with AFC and national club licensing and youth development.
“We gave them a brief presentation. They asked about our future plans and thoughts on the roadmap. It was a long meeting and they said they will get back to us. We are waiting for feedback,” Rohit Ramesh, CCFC owner, told Express.
Questions remain regarding the concept of promotion and relegation. Earlier, talks centred around the concept of two leagues, without promotion or relegation. A few clubs have objected to this.
“Stories like Leicester will not happen if this comes into effect. Clubs play in the lower division in the hope that they can win promotion to the top level and play against the best. If that is taken away, there is little to play for,” explained Ranjit Bajaj, CEO of Minerva.
“We have come up through the ranks of our state league as well as I-League 2nd division. If there is no such scope in future, that is a major concern,” he added.
There were talks also on the six-foreigner rule coming into effect in the new I-League season. Two of them have to be from Asian countries. The earlier rule allowed four foreigners in all. However, unlike the previous seasons when all the foreigners could be in the 11, only five can play this time.
“Indian players will be deprived of chances which is not in the interest for our national team. Another point is that teams qualifying to play in the AFC competitions are allowed to field only four foreigners. So teams will have to change strategy and planning. This point also needs clarification,” Bajaj added.
Even a few second division I-League clubs like Fateh Hyderabad, Kenkre FC and Delhi United have been granted an opportunity to meet the delegation and discuss their concerns.
Based on feedback from different stakeholders in football in India, the AFC and FIFA will put together a plan for the football season in the country. The plan is expected to be given to the AIFF by November.