I-League, ISL merger will affect Indian football ecosystem, says AIFF general secretary

Kushal Das was hopeful that I-League clubs would go onto participate in the final round of the Super Cup.

Published : Mar 20, 2019 19:00 IST , CHENNAI

ISL club Bengaluru FC in action against I-League's East Bengal in the 2018 Super Cup final.
ISL club Bengaluru FC in action against I-League's East Bengal in the 2018 Super Cup final.

ISL club Bengaluru FC in action against I-League's East Bengal in the 2018 Super Cup final.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das here on Wednesday said the board president Praful Patel will meet and discuss with the representatives/owners of the I-League clubs following their boycott from this year’s Super Cup.

“The president is campaigning in Gondia right now. He’s been travelling. He’s campaigning for two things – the Lok Sabha elections, the FIFA council seat. So, he’s been busy. Hopefully, [it will be sorted] before the Super Cup final round.

READ | I-League clubs want 20-team 'Indian Football League'

“Right now, we have written again to the clubs to give the final update; to let us know by March 21 latest, if they are actually participating or not, and that we’ll take a call then.”

The clubs want to discuss the future of the league with the AIFF president.

Kushal said: “We have always said that as per the contractual obligations with the marketing partner (FSDL), the ISL has to be the top league. But we’ve held it back for some years, so that we find a middle path. If the bid opens, then some of the clubs can bid. Then, slowly next year again it can be opened up. You can’t merge twenty clubs just like that. There are huge financial implications. As it is, it’s difficult to find a sustainable model for football. If you merge just like that without any planning, it’ll lead to big issues with the clubs, the marketing partner, the broadcaster, the sponsor, the whole ecosystem.”

He said it will be “very difficult” to waive the entrance fee and let I-League clubs into the top tier. “There are clubs paying their franchisee fee. And then if you’re trying to get somebody without paying the franchisee fee right now, then it can lead to problems with the existing clubs. So, when the contractual obligation with the existing clubs gets over after ten years, then it may be considered.

READ | I-League clubs, AIFF continue to be at loggerheads over Super Cup participation

“We have always said that ultimately there has to be a league structure with promotion/relegation. The introduction (of such a structure) has to be timed properly, because we also have to find a sustainable model. See, in Europe, when a team gets relegated, there is a parachute payment as they call it.

“Those kind of things are not there in the Indian system right now. Let’s take Kerala Blasters, for example. If there’s relegation and if there’s no parachute payment to support them especially after they’ve invested so much, then it’ll be a problem for them.”

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