‘Merge I-L with ISL; but spare top clubs’ franchisee fee’

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Former Indian soccer captain and Football Players Association of India president Baichung Bhutia has pitched for merger of the Indian Super League and the I-League for a 20-team long-duration tourney and asserted that the age-old I- league clubs should be spared the franchisee’s fee for turning out in the ISL.

In case the two leagues are not merged, then both should be held simultaneously, as it would lead to a bigger pool of players and less number of players would remain unemployed, he said.

“There should be merger of the ISL and the I-League. And then 20 teams should compete with each other for a long duration tournament, which will benefit Indian football,” Bhutia told media persons. “Now one league is played for four months, and then there is a break of four-five months before the other one is played. This does not benefit the footballers,” India.com has quoted Bhutia as saying.

“If both tourneys run simultaneously, then more number of players will get an opportunity to play in top tournaments. So unemployment among Indian footballers will go down. This will greatly benefit the footballer, as in this sport players’ time span is very short, around 15 years,” he said. “And the country will also stand to gain, as it will get a bigger pool of players.”

Bhutia said if the merger does take place, then in order to get the best players, and to retain them, the clubs would offer long time contract. “This will again help the players. Moreover, to get good players, the clubs will undertake youth development programmes,” said the advisor to the All India Football Federation. Amid the continuing row between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and ISL organisers Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL) on the issue of payment of Rs 15 crore franchisee fee to turn out in the cash-rich tournament, Bhutia lent his support to the city giants.

“The franchise fee should be waived for East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and all other I-League clubs for taking part in the ISL.

“East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are playing soccer for more than a century. Dempo Sports Club has been there for 50 years. Churchill Brothers are also there for long. There players should not be expected to play such high fees like the corporate clubs,” he said.
Bhutia said he had conducted a survey among 100 players, on whether they wanted to ply their trade in the ISL or the I-League. “Most of them voted for the ISL.”

However, what Bhutia didn’t address is that how will the financial model work in the model he was proposing. Who compensates for the franchisee’s fee, for whom Bhutia is advocating a waiver. Why should only the existing ISL clubs take the financial burden? How can teams with lesser financial liability be given the monetary rights on a par with the teams which will be paying full fee.

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