File photo of AIFF President Praful Patel.(AFP)
File photo of AIFF President Praful Patel.(AFP)

FIFA-AFC report cannot be implemented now, says AIFF

Das’s comments came a day after the world governing body wrote to the AIFF, seeking an update on the current impasse involving the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL).
New Delhi | By Bhargab Sarmah
UPDATED ON JUL 26, 2019 11:24 PM IST

Many of the recommendations made by the two-member FIFA-AFC delegation, in a tentative roadmap on the Indian football league structure that has been submitted to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in February, 2018, are ‘not feasible’, federation general secretary Kushal Das said on Friday. Das’s comments came a day after the world governing body wrote to the AIFF, seeking an update on the current impasse involving the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL). In its letter, FIFA referred to the 2018 report, prepared by Nic Coward and Alex Phillips, saying it contained ‘a series of clear and concrete recommendations for your further consideration’. Coward and Phillips had been assigned by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to consult stakeholders in India and prepare a roadmap.

In a discussion with a group of reporters here on Friday, Das said, “There are many things in the AFC-FIFA roadmap which cannot be implemented right now. That is why we have been trying to slowly implement it.” Citing a recommendation on financial sustainability, which suggests clubs in the new unified top tier provide financial guarantees from owners or financial institutions and that their finances be independently audited, Das said it wouldn’t be possible for either ISL or I-League clubs.

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“After this report was sent by the AFC, we had pointed out to them that some of these recommendations are difficult to implement at this point of time,” Das said. “To say that the club should own their own stadium is not feasible for both I-League and ISL clubs. Therefore we have to tell FIFA that this recommendation is not practical,” Das said, referring to another point in the report. The report, however, didn’t recommend that clubs own stadia. Instead, it called for the establishing of medium and long-term participation criteria and referred to stadium ownership/lease as an example of a medium-term requirement.

NO PANEL FORMED

As one of the first steps towards discussing and implementing the roadmap, the report had suggested the formation of a panel called ‘League Transition Commission’ within six weeks of its receipt. The panel was to comprise of ‘independent external members’ appointed by FIFA and AFC. Asked why the same hasn’t been formed 17 months after the AIFF had received the report, Das said, “The AIFF and the people who are in the ecosystem are far more qualified to find that solution rather than getting people from outside. While setting up a commission is one of the requirements, you have to see what is the best solution going forward and we are absolutely in the process of finding that solution.”

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The report had recommended that ISL be the new top-tier from the 2019-20 season with the addition of two I-League clubs. Two more I-League clubs would be promoted per season for the next two campaigns, the report had added. Das said franchise fees would be the biggest stumbling block in implementing this.

The report had also called for the ‘review and resetting of the 2010 agreement’ between AIFF and its commercial partners, the Reliance and Star Sports co-owned Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). Asked to comment on the same, Das said, “That is again a crazy thing to say. What exactly do you mean by resetting? How will you renegotiate (the agreement)? Do you know the implications of that? Suppose they (FSDL) say, ‘we are not renegotiating, we are moving away’. Then what happens?”

The next step, according to Das, would be to engage with FIFA, AFC and the domestic stakeholders but he didn’t elaborate on whether the federation had any specific plan to solve concerns about the roadmap recommended by Coward and Phillips.

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