AIFF: Restructuring necessary to make clubs commercially viable

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das told Sportstar that an overhaul of the country's existing football league system was imperative to take the game forward in the country.

Bengaluru FC players celebrate after their I-League title triumph.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) today made it clear that restructuring of the country's football league system was necessary to make the clubs commercially more viable.

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das told Sportstar that an overhaul was imperative to take the game forward in the country. Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa last week pulled out of the I-League in protest against the AIFF's decision to make Indian Super League the top league while proposing League 1 and League 2 respectively for the existing top and second division teams.

"Nothing was happening in the I-League. It was a product simply not accepted by the market for whatever reasons it may have been," said Das. "So, we have to look for a financially and commercially sustainable model. We feel that these new proposals are the way to go forward if football has to progress in the country. I am confident that the new structure, with the support of all clubs, can really be a game changer for Indian club football."

"Clubs have folded up because of unsustainable financial models and that's why we want to ensure that they are sustainable to survive. If people take decisions emotionally, it does not make sense. It is for the good of Indian football," he added. "While we do not want to see clubs closing down we must also appreciate that new clubs are emerging in the ISL, I-League and 2nd division I-League at the same time."

Das said that all the I-League clubs could not have been accommodated in the top tier (ISL) mostly due to financial reasons. He said the top tier will be opened up and expanded to 15-16 teams after six-seven years once the ISL and League 1 clubs become self sustainable financially.

"Right now ISL clubs are also losing money. Our whole idea is in six to seven years, ISL clubs will have a sustainable model and they will break even. Simultaneously, we will create a model which will make League 1 and League 2 teams become financially sustainable by giving them a minimum guaranteed money, plus ensuring that all matches of League 1 are telecast live. That will allow the clubs to sell their sponsorship and better exploit themselves commercially."

"After six-seven years, the top tier will be opened up and there can be 15-16 teams and there will be promotions and relegations. That is the time for the existing I-League clubs to join the top tier and till then they have to wait."

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