FIFA urges I-League clubs to co-operate with AIFF

FIFA has backed AIFF president Praful Patel's short-term roadmap for Indian football and has urged the I-League clubs to work in tandem with the national federation.

Commenting on the idea of a unified league, FIFA said: the "AIFF is best placed to do this and we are confident that a thorough and effective process can be managed by the AIFF in its role as the governing body for football in India."   -  Getty Images

World football’s governing body FIFA has backed All India Football Federation’s plans of having a unified football league in the country and has advised the clubs to co-operate with the process. AIFF had drawn a three-year road map for unifying the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) but opposition from some of the top clubs had put a spoke in the implementation of the process.

The clubs – Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC – had approached FIFA to protest against AIFF's move to grant top status to the franchise driven ISL.

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In his response on Wednesday, FIFA’s acting deputy secretary general Mattias Grafstrom said, “The review performed in 2018 did indeed identify a number of complex issues which require a prudent and measured approach, encompassing the positions of all relevant stakeholders, in order be appropriately addressed. After further discussions, it was clear that there are numerous aspects of the recommendations that still require further consideration prior to them being implemented.”

AIFF, while admitting the situation arising out of the confrontation between I-League and the ISL, had expressed helplessness citing financial issues. “We can’t be blind to the fact that we need money. It is not that the AIFF does not have the interest of the clubs at heart. We all want to develop Indian football. There is no personal agenda here but sadly some of the clubs look at AIFF as the villain,” AIFF secretary general Kushal Das told Sportstar.

FIFA, meanwhile, acknowledged and said, “We understand that based on this the AIFF president (Praful Patel) has met the clubs and suggested a short-term solution until a more sustainable long-term solution can be found following continued consultation with all stakeholders. We therefore strongly believe that the AIFF is best placed to do this and we are confident that a thorough and effective process can be managed by the AIFF in its role as the governing body for football in India.”

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Das asserted, “We have all along been saying that only AIFF is best placed to handle the crisis. There is a system in place and the clubs have to understand that financial guarantee for participation is a must.”

FIFA's reply concluded on a positive note. “FIFA, together with the AFC, remains available to assist and support the AIFF with this process and it will be important that all clubs work closely with the AIFF as the cooperation of all stakeholders will be fundamental to ensuring that the best way forward for top-level football in India is found.”