AIFF wants AFC Champions League slot for ISL winner

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has written to the Asian Football Confederation requesting it to allot an AFC Champions League berth to the Indian Super League (ISL) winner.

The All India Football Federation's (AIFF) executive committee met on Tuesday.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF), on Tuesday approached the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to allot an AFC Champions League qualification berth for the winner of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Until now, the winner of the I-League - which is still the top-tier of Indian football - earned an AFC Champions League qualification spot, while the ISL winner played the AFC Cup. If the AFC agrees to the AIFF's request, then the change will happen from the 2020-2021 season, ie, the winner of the 2019-2020 ISL will play in the AFC Champions League in the 2020-2021 season.

In a statement, the AIFF said: "In light of the MRA as well as the fact that in the last 5 years the entire Indian national squad are mostly being signed/playing for the Indian Super League clubs, and the TV viewership and in stadia audience having grown far more substantially vis a vi the I-League, and the Indian Super League clubs complying with the entire AFC Club licensing criteria, including strong grassroots, and youth development programmes which had also been certified by the Asian Football Confederation, the AIFF Executive Committee recommends to the Asian Football Confederation to positively consider their request."

The AIFF had signed an Master Rights Agreement (MRA) with IMG-Reliannce (FSDL now), which makes FSDL one of the principal stakeholders of Indian football. The MRA makes it mandatory for the Federation to consult FSDL on all "non-judicial" matters.

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With the turmoil surrounding the future of the two leagues running simultaneously and the roadmap for Indian football, the AIFF has asked the AFC to send a delegation to find a solution for the same. "Further, as the issues of Hero I-League, Hero I-League clubs and the future roadmap of Indian Football including a unified League are important issues which need to be resolved in a time bound manner, the AIFF Executive Committee requests the Asian Football Confederation to send a high-level delegation led by Dato Windsor John, General Secretary, Asian Football Confederation at the earliest to discuss this issue with all stakeholders of Indian Football including our commercial partners FSDL to arrive at a fair solution," the statement said.

The representatives of the I-League clubs had met with the AIFF president last week to voice their concerns and Patel had made some suggestions, but the clubs had asked for a day's time. The clubs released a statement the next day saying they did not want to give up their AFC Champions League slot.

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And then on Monday, six I-League clubs - Aizawl FC, Minerva Punjab FC, Quess East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala FC - went on to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to intervene.

Reacting to this, the AIFF said: "In the meeting of the I-League clubs along with the AIFF president, and the general secretary, held on July 3, 2019 in Delhi, some broad proposals were discussed, and a joint statement was issued by AIFF and the I-League clubs.

"These amicable discussions were to be presented to the AFC Executive Committee for further consideration. However, on July 8, 2019, the clubs via a letter released to the media have taken a contrary stand which is not in the spirit with which the AIFF president had met the clubs. As a result, we have therefore, asked the AFC to find a possible solution."

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