AIFF needs to rethink proposed restructure: Brahmanand

"The federation should do a strong rethink on the proposal supposed to change the structure of Indian football. The Indian Super League is only a tournament, popular due to various factors. I-League is India’s national league and clubs involved should be encouraged," felt the former Indian captain.

AIFF presented before stakeholders a proposal to have ISL and League One, after asking few existing I-League clubs to merge with ISL franchises and the remaining to continue competing in League One in place of I-League.   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

S Brahmanand, former Indian football captain and one-time national team goalkeeping coach, pointed out the misplaced priorities of the All India Football Federation in dealing with communication from I-League clubs Salgaocar SC and Sporting Clube de Goa. He was answering a query about the cause and effect of the two Goan teams withdrawing from I-League and expressed frustration at decisions thrust down the throat of clubs.

The Arjuna awardee said: “The federation should do a strong rethink on the proposal supposed to change the structure of Indian football. The Indian Super League is only a tournament, popular due to various factors. I-League is India’s national league and clubs involved should be encouraged.” Brahmanand’s reference was to AIFF’s new proposal to do away with promotion and relegation for I-League clubs.

He said: “If there is no promotion rule for I-League clubs, nor the earlier rule giving the I-League toppers a chance to qualify for Asian Football Confederation events, there is little incentive for clubs to continue putting money into football.” Brahmanand was critical of AIFF’s reluctance in replying to written communication from Salgaocar and Sporting on the I-League issue, triggering the pull-out by two Goan clubs.

However, he does acknowledge the popularity of ISL and its trickle-down effect on stadium attendance. “The ISL is popular due to the drama surrounding the matches and presence of famous people in stadiums. Goans who have never attended I-League matches were seen at FC Goa games in ISL. Having said that, it should not be forgotten that national leagues determine the sport’s future in every nation.”

He pointed at England football. “Premier League is the most important competition. England clubs facing relegation and in line for promotion adds to the sport’s popularity. We watch EPL and other European leagues on television. England has other tournaments, but clubs give EPL top priority.”

AIFF presented before stakeholders a proposal to have ISL and League One, after asking few existing I-League clubs to merge with ISL franchises and the remaining to continue competing in League One in place of I-League. “Clubs have dealt with relegation before. Managements have worked hard with players to get promoted and returned,” said the ex-India captain, adding: “Dempo faced relegation with courage and came back. Salgaocar was in danger of relegation last season and bounced back.”

Brahmanand’s worry is about other clubs in Goa and elsewhere going down the same path. “I have heard talks that Dempo is thinking along the same lines. Churchill Brothers was suspended earlier on technical grounds.” CB, one-time national league champion, was scratched from I-League for failing to comply with AFC Licensing rules. “Indian clubs are punished for not following certain guidelines. Teams which obey are later supposed to either lose identity after merger with ISL sides in future or play without promotion. It is time for AIFF to do a rethink.”

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