AIFF calls for meeting “regarding non-relegation"

The AIFF's technical director Isac Doru is scheduled to make a presentation “regarding non-relegation” in the meeting, which will also have the federation president Praful Patel in attendance.

Indian football

The meeting is likely to explore the idea of doing away with the relegation from the I-League “only” for the current season because of the Covid-19 pandemic.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

The All India Football Federation has called for a meeting on April 30 with the presidents and secretaries of all state associations. The AIFF's technical director Isac Doru is scheduled to make a presentation “regarding non-relegation” in the meeting, which will also have the federation president Praful Patel in attendance.

According to the AIFF, Doru's presentation will explore the idea of doing away with the relegation from the I-League “only” for the current season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, according to a few sources, the federation might also need to look at moving away from its earlier agreed roadmap -- jointly envisaged by the federation, I-League, ISL clubs and the Asian Football Confederation -- to introduce relegation-promotion from the 2024-25 season.

The AIFF general secretary Kushal Das, in September 2020, had stated: “From 2024-25 there will be promotion, relegation where the bottom-placed team (of the ISL) will be relegated to the second tier and the I-League winner will be promoted to ISL.”

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The roadmap had also announced a direct entry to the ISL for the I-League winners of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

“I think they (the league and club owners) are not happy with the proposal (relegation), so they might be pulling the AIFF to take a decision that there will not be a relegation from the ISL,” a football official said. “Nobody will want to buy a team if there is a danger of the club being relegated. If someone buys a club for Rs 200 crore and if there is a risk of relegation in the same year, who will pay such a huge amount.”

(Copy has been updated following clarification/ statement from AIFF's side)

AIFF's roadmap for Indian football

Year 1 (2019/2020) - No promotion and relegation in ISL

Year 2 (2020/2021) - No promotion and relegation in ISL, two clubs from I-League to be offered entry into ISL by the end of 2020/2021 season

Year 3 (2021/2022) - No promotion and relegation in ISL, League Format (i.e. Name of league and number of teams) to be decided by AIFF for implementation from Year 6

Year 4 (2022/2023) - Winner of I-League to be promoted to ISL, no relegation; no Entry Fee, no distribution of central revenue for newly promoted club from I-League, Only by Sporting Merit, Facilities and national club licencing criteria

Year 5 (2023/2024) - Winner of I-League to be promoted to ISL, no relegation; no Entry Fee, no distribution of central revenue for newly promoted club from I-League, Only by Sporting Merit, Facilities and national club licencing criteria

Year 6 (2024/2025) - One League only and one knock-out competition to be organised by AIFF, promotion and relegation to be implemented

Essentially, the roadmap elevated the ISL to the top division of Indian football and stated that two I-League clubs would be offered entry into the ISL by the end of the 2020/21 season. The two Kolkata giants formed tie-ups - East Bengal brought in Shree Cement as an investor and Mohun Bagan tied up with ATK - to join the ISL in the 2020/21 season.

As per the roadmap, the I-League winner will earn a slot in the ISL, purely on merit, from the 2022-23 season. This arrangement would continue for two seasons. The promoted I-League clubs will neither have to pay an entry fee nor will they receive a share from the central revenue pool. No ISL club would be relegated in this period. 

Following this, the AIFF will re-brand the ISL (the name of new league will be decided in 2021/22) and unify the two leagues by bringing in promotion-relegation from the 2024-25 season. The national federation will also organise a knockout tournament.

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