Ten I-League clubs will meet the All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel here on Wednesday to seek clarification on the controversial move to accord Indian Super League (ISL) the top tier status in Indian football.
Out of the 10, eight — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC, NEROCA, Gokulam Kerala and Shillong Lajong — have formed a united front on the issue while I-League champions Chennai City left them during the Super Cup tournament earlier this year.
Real Kashmir FC did not join the group but a representative of the club is expected to be in the meeting to be held at a city hotel.
Miffed at AIFF general secretary Kushal Das’s public acknowledgement of ISL as the country’s main league, the eight-club grouping had already said that they are ready to approach “appropriate courts for relief” if the AIFF makes the ISL the country’s top league.
The eight clubs will have a separate meeting among themselves before they meet Patel to decide how to present their case.
“We will ask how there was an agreement/contract between AIFF and FSDL way back in 2010, which says that ISL will be made the top league in country. Mr. Patel has been all along saying that I-League is the top league in the country,” Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj said.
“We invested money for our clubs on the assurance that I-League will be the top league but now how can you say that there is an agreement (with FSDL) that ISL will be the top league and I-League will be relegated below. We will ask him. We will say that this agreement is illegal,” he added.
The AIFF Executive Committee will meet on July 9 and Bajaj said that the clubs will knock the doors of the court if the national federation takes a decision to make ISL the top league.
If the AIFF grants top league status to ISL, the winning team of the ISL is expected to play in the AFC Champions League — Asia’s top tier club competition — qualifying round.
Till now, the I-League champion team has been getting that chance and Minerva played in the AFC Champions League qualifying round last year as I-League 2017-18 winners.
Reacting to the I-League clubs threat to go to court, the AIFF has said that it’s premature and unnecessary to pre-judge any action of the federation, and be commenting on the decision of Executive Committee meeting in advance.
“The AIFF as a custodian of Indian Football has always endeavoured to balance to the interest of all stakeholders, and the Hero I-League, and its clubs. To say that the future of Hero I-League, and the clubs will not be taken into consideration for any future decisions of the AIFF would be unfair,” it had said.