Football bosses evasive; Bhaichung Bhutia, Renedy Singh back FIFA proposals
The All India Football Federation and its commercial partners are under pressure to switch to a one-league format from 2019-2020. Currently, there are two league – the Indian Super League and the I-LeagueUpdated: Apr 05, 2018 20:21 IST
Reacting to the report on FIFA proposals for a sustainable road map for club football, a jittery All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to play the waiting game but other stakeholders said they were encouraging.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said they haven’t received the official report from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). “Once we do, it will be placed before the executive committee which will take the final decision,” he said, over the phone from Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), which executes the agreement between AIFF and IMG-Reliance signed in 2010, did not want to comment. FSDL, primarily a body comprising AIFF’s commercial partners and broadcasters, virtually controls football in India.
However, others were more forthcoming on the proposal document prepared by Alex Phillips and Nic Coward, representing AFC and Fifa respectively, mainly based on interviews last October.
The Phillips-Coward committee was formed following a meeting with representatives from Indian clubs, former players, AIFF and its commercial partners and AFC general-secretary Windsor John in Kuala Lumpur last June.
Mohun Bagan finance secretary Debasish Dutta said even though these are recommendations, since they come from a committee formed by Fifa and the AFC, the AIFF will have to follow most of it. “A lot of discussions still need to happen but it is good that we are talking about one league in a specific timeframe,” he said in Kolkata.
“There should be one league with merit based promotion and relegation and, as long as that happens, we don’t care in which league we play. If we are good enough, we will reach the top and if we are not good enough we should be relegated. There should be no relegation immunity for anyone,” said Ranjit Bajaj whose team Minerva Punjab FC are the reigning I-League champions.
The point about the possibility of breaking into the top tier was something former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia too stressed on. “Unless, I offer the possibility of being part of the top tier, why will investors want to be part of my club United Sikkim?” said Bhutia, over the phone from Gangtok.
NO GAP IN STANDARDS
“This Super Cup has shown that there isn’t a yawning gap between ISL and I-League teams. So, I think now is the right time to talk about a unified league but it is imperative that teams know they will be relegated. I have been part of teams that fought to avoid relegation and I know what that brings to a league,” said former international midfielder Renedy Singh in Kolkata.
Singh is among the handful of players who has led Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and now heads the Football Players’ Association of India.
Dutta, Bajaj, Bhutia and Singh were among those interviewed by Coward and Phillips.
No one though knows when the next meeting of the AIFF executive committee will be called. That is because the Supreme Court-appointed committee comprising former Chief Election Commissioner of India SY Quraishi and former Indian captain Bhaskar Ganguly, is yet to take a call on the status of the federation’s elected representatives.
The FIFA committee wants India to abolish a two-league format and introduce one unique league from 2019-2020.