New Delhi: I-League clubs are waiting for a meeting with All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel as their fate hangs in the balance.
With the I-League reaching its last lap for the 2018-19 season, the question once again doing the rounds is the much-talked about Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League merger. This is a possibility that has been doing the rounds for the last few years. If some of the recent reports in the media are to be believed, this could be the last season for the I-League. This has created a kind of uncertainty among the clubs involved.
A letter submitted by the eight I-League clubs — Aizawl FC, Chennai City, Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala, reigning champions Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan, Neroca and East Bengal — asking for a meeting with Patel to discuss their future has got no response. The clubs that did not sign the letter were Real Kashmir, Shillong Lajong (owned by AIFF vice-president Larsing Ming Sawyan) and AIFF’s own team Indian Arrows.
A senior official of Minerva Punjab FC, a signatory to the letter, told IANS, “We have not received any confirmation about the meeting from the Federation.”
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) constitution does not allow a member country to have two national leagues running simultaneously. This was made very clear by AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John when he was in Kolkata for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“It’s not a question of what we are favouring. It’s in the AFC constitution that one country should have one league. We just gave provision (for two leagues) for a transition period. That’s all,” Windsor told reporters. “There will be one league for sure,” he said.
While the AFC has already submitted a roadmap for the merger to the AIFF, the implementation of the roadmap is a huge task. All stake holders, including clubs of both the I-League and ISL, have to be on the same platform for the merger to become a possibility.
There is also the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) issue. The clubs in their letter have demanded that the country’s top league should be run by AIFF and not their commercial marketing partners FSDL as they have a conflict of interest.
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told IANS that the president is yet to confirm any date for the meeting. “We are yet to get a date for the meeting from AIFF president Praful Patel”, he said.