Bhutia advises merger of ISL, I-League with promotion relegation system

Former Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia has advised a bigger national league with a promotion-relegation system and hinted, without saying in these many words, that merger of the Indian Super League and the I-League is the way forward.

“I am not talking about merger. We need to have bigger number of teams with separate divisions, say 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions, where we can have relegation and promotion system. This is what the format is all across the world and I think we need to get into that format soon,” Bhutia said.

The Sikkim footballer was speaking on the sidelines of a knowledge session on ‘Intergrity in Sports’ organised by the All India Gaming Federation and industry body, FICCI.

Bhutia was of the opinion that the I-League clubs’ move to approach FIFA won’t work as the world body will eventually pass the buck on to the AIFF to clear the mess.

Top I-League clubs such as Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have written to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, asking for his help in their fight for survival in Indian football.

Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC are among the six clubs to have written to the sport’s global body, with Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj signing the letter.

The clubs’ biggest bone of contention is the top tier status accorded to Indian Super League by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as per the Master Right Agreement (MRA) signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance in 2010.