FIFA, the world football governing body, has sought an update from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on the current status of the club structure in the country.
In response to the letter sent by six I-League clubs to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, FIFA's Chief Member Associations Officer Joyce Cook has asked for an update from the national federation.
The clubs — East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Minerva Punjab, Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala — had sought FIFA president’s intervention in the dispute over the top tier status in Indian football between Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League. It may be recalled that earlier this month the AIFF had announced that it would recommend the AFC to consider the ISL champion for a spot in the qualifiers for the AFC Champions League.
"Further to previous exchanges concerning the sustainable development of top-level Indian club football and the current situation within Indian football, we have recently become aware of media reports concerning ongoing discussions with I-League clubs, the future of the top league’s structure in India and a potentially unified “Indian Football League”. Furthermore, we have also been contacted by several I-League clubs in this regard," Cook wrote in a mail addressed to AIFF general secretary Kushal Das.
"Many of the elements under discussion are related to suggestions made in a joint FIFA and AFC report following an extensive consultation process in 2018. The report’s objectives are among others, to provide the AIFF with external expertise and to support your federation and it's stakeholders in establishing and implementing a widely-supported, robust medium to long-term strategy. As you know, the report is therefore a comprehensive review and professional proposal which also contains a series of clear and concrete recommendations for your further consideration.
"In view of the above, we would like to obtain an update on the current position of the AIFF as well as any additional information you may be able to provide on the present situation.
Reacting to the letter, the AIFF in a statement said: “In the recent days, the AIFF President Mr. Praful Patel in his meeting with the Hero I-League clubs as well as in several recent interviews has broadly taken the same line as was suggested in the above-mentioned report.
“Needless to mention that this is precisely the reason that a two-three-year window is required to resolve all contentious issues amicably with all stakeholders."
It further added: “The question of Hero Indian Super League not remaining a closed league permanently has been clarified amply enough by the AIFF President, and promotion and relegation eventually would lead to the development of club football in India.”
The AIFF said it is committed to engaging with AFC and FIFA as well as all other stakeholders for finding an early resolution to these issues.