Kerala set to get new I-League team for next season

“There is interest from a team in Thiruvananthapuram and one from Malappuram in Kerala. It is good for us because we are always looking to move to new cities,” I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said in a telephonic conversation with Sportstar

The I-League has received bids for a new Kerala team for the upcoming season. (representative image)   -  THE HINDU

Kerala’s dream for an I-League club might soon become a reality with AIFF confirming it has received inquiries from teams in the state. The last team from the state to play in the I-League was Viva Kerala (Chirag United Club Kerala) which got relegated in the 2011-12 season.

“There is interest from a team in Thiruvananthapuram and one from Malappuram in Kerala. It is good for us because we are always looking to move to new cities,” I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said in a telephonic conversation with Sportstar.

It was decided in an executive committee meeting held last week in Mumbai to listen to new bids for teams after Bengaluru FC (an I-League team owned by JSW) won the bid for a slot in the extended Indian Super League (ISL). And with DSK Shivajians likely to pull the plug after defaulting on the club fee, the I-League will have two slots to fill in the upcoming season.

The I-League is set to be played simultaneously (as per various reports) along with the Indian Super League, which has led to concerns about deteriorating pitch quality as many I-League and ISL teams share the same stadium. But Dhar does not find this a major concern.

"Pitches won’t be affected if it is taken care of properly. We have had multiple teams from Kolkata and Goa sharing the stadiums so it won’t be a problem," said Dhar, who also said the scheduling of the leagues will be done in such a way that not all I-League matches will have to be played in the mid-week to accommodate the popular ISL.

Aizawl FC was permitted to continue in the I-League top division even though it was relegated in the 2015-16 season but Dhar said that a decision on the future of Mumbai FC, last in the league this time around, was yet to be taken. The I-League CEO also notified that AIFF's commercial partner IMG-Reliance was in advanced talks with a TV broadcaster for the TV rights of the league. The contract with Ten Sports ended with the 2016-17 season.

  Dugout videos