Indian clubs face ban if single football league not started from 2019-20: Fifa-backed report
The All India Football Federation general secretary Kushal Das recently said the AIFF is in no rush to merge the leagues, but the Fifa report is likely to change that.Updated: Apr 05, 2018 09:19 IST
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) may have to accelerate its efforts to merge the two football leagues in the country, the Indian Super league (ISL) and the I-League, from 2019-20, with a report by a two-member committee appointed by Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recommending this.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das recently said that AIFF is in no rush to merge the leagues, but the report is likely to change that.
The 17-page report, authored by Alex Philips of AFC (he was seconded from UEFA) and Nic Coward, a Fifa consultant, also recommends an expanded football league with 16 teams no later than 2022-23, with the bottom two teams being relegated.
The report also calls for a review of some of the arrangements currently in place, such as ISL teams having a 10-year immunity from relegation. It also suggests reviewing parts of the 15-year agreement between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance signed in 2010.
On part of IMG-R, the agreement is now executed by Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) where Star Sports has a stake. Hindustan Times has seen a copy of the report.
The recommendations come with a caveat. Should India not be able to implement a unified league structure from 2019-20, the report proposes an Asian ban on Indian clubs.
From 2019-20, the plan recommends that the top tier of the league has 12 teams, including 10 ISL teams, with at least one of the added teams being the I-League champions of 2018-19. By accommodating the I-League champions the plan seeks to establish a clear promotion link. The report also recommends growing ISL but “on an open and clear basis.”
If the second new team isn’t the I-League runner-up, it can be chosen through open tender, says the plan titled ‘The Sustainable Development of Top-level Indian Club Football --- A Road Map.’
By adding two teams each season , the top tier should have 16 teams by 2021-22 or by 2022-23 (if the plan is delayed). Once that happens, it is recommended that the bottom two be relegated every year. This is at odds with the ISL agreement which says its franchises are guaranteed 10 years from 2014 in the closed (no relegation) league.
“It is understood that this is earlier than 10 years, but we do not consider that this should be material for the original ISL teams or even the later additions,” the authors say.
As a trade-off, the plan says ISL teams should stop paying franchise fees once relegation begins. Teams pay between Rs 12-18 crore per season as fee for playing in the ISL. Teams entering the unified league too should pay an as-yet undecided fee, says the plan.
The plan also states that the one-city-one-team credo of the ISL be scrapped from 2019-20. This will clear the way for multiple teams from one city to take part with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, two of India’s oldest clubs, and both based in Kolkata, being the biggest beneficiaries. Former ISL champions ATK are also from Kolkata.
An expansion plan similar to the one for the top tier has been recommended for the league’s second tier, which too should eventually have 16 teams. The rights for both leagues will be with a company like FSDL, according to the road map, with the AIFF being paid for them. “The Founding Agreement will be a renegotiation of the existing AIFF/IMGR/FSDL agreement,” the report said.
The AIFF will have all the rights for a cup competition whose winners will get a berth in the AFC Cup, Asia’s second-tier club tournament.
To handhold stakeholders through the process of overhauling the Indian club football scene for the long-term, the plan calls for the creation of the League Transition Commission, which will also have experts appointed by Fifa and AFC.
“We have not received the final report from the AFC and we would not like to comment on any report made by individuals,” said an AIFF official who asked not to be named given the sensitive nature of the issue.
No one from FSDL was available for comment.
First Published: Apr 05, 2018 08:35 IST