The All India Football Federation president Praful Patel has assured the I-League clubs that their future is secure. He also promised to approach the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to ensure the league continues to co-exist with the ISL for another 2-3 years.
Patel said he will seek the AFC’s approval for the current status quo to be maintained for the another 2-3 years, by which time he hopes all the stakeholders will reach to a consensus.
That will be done only after consultation with Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), a subsidiary of AIFF’s commercial partner IMG-Reliance.
“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.
“There is a historical issue with Indian football, within that framework, I feel a reasonable two to three years window should be given for I-League also to be continuing.
“I cannot give you any assurance yet because I have to talk to the AFC. AFC also have to agree to what I am saying. It may be our wish but AFC will have to agree. Our commercial partners have to be consulted. At the end of the day, there are costs involved.”
“There has been a lot of uncertainty around. Unfortunately this started because in between there were a couple of months of election season and I was also a candidate for the FIFA council and there some issues cropped up. All I can say is that we have always acknowledged the I-League clubs as long-standing, clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have a long history of Indian football. Other clubs have also started contributing a lot to Indian football. So nobody wants to undermine and say that I-League clubs do not have a good future. We also want the I-League clubs to have a good future.
“There are issues that you are aware of and there is no need to repeat them but ISL also has come and redefined Indian football by the kind of exposure it has got. We are concerned about all stakeholders in Indian football. We want players to do well and get paid well. Ultimately, the national team also has to do well. All these issues are part of overall development of football. Therefore, we had a meaningful meeting today. They had their concerns and I respect their concerns. While the I-League is going on, they have scheduling issues, broadcast issues, all these things have to be given their right solution and must be resolved. I have given them that assurance,” Patel said.
The AIFF chief said, “There are also rights which they (FSDL) got through the Master Right Agreement which we had signed many years ago. Within that framework which is three years, I feel that the I-League also must co-exist with the fullest recognition of the AFC so that it is an AFC product.
“It should not be something which is not recognised by the AFC. So the clubs in I-League must also not get lost in the upward movement. These are just suggestions which we will try to talk to all the stakeholders.”
Among other issues, the clubs sought clarification on the controversial move to accord Indian Super League (ISL) the top tier status in Indian football as per a Master Right Agreement signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance.