Bhutia bats for inclusion of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in ISL

Speaking about the decline in TV ratings and reduction in fans coming to the stadia, Bhaichung Bhutia said that one option to counter it would be the inclusion of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the Indian Super League.

“What we need is a league with relegation and promotion,” said Bhaichung Bhutia. [File photo]   -  PTI

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday said that the Indian Super League’s diminishing popularity could be revived by the inclusion of Kolkata’s two heavyweights — Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

“ISL will definitely benefit with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan coming in. These clubs have a lot of history, they bring in fans to the stadium,” said Bhutia. “The I-League name can be changed. What we need right now is a top league with the big clubs of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and the ISL teams. They need to be more professional.”

“Today if you play a Spanish League and if you do not play Barcelona or Real Madrid then the charm of the league no more exits. By bringing them into the top league will only add to the passion and the competition will be much better. I’m sure one day they will get in.”

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Pointing out the decline in TV ratings, the 47-year-old said: “It’s the data showing it. The fans in the stadium are coming down drastically. It’s there in black and white. When it started it was the third highest watched league in the stadium. Now you need to try and do something different to revive it.”

“Including Mohun Bagan and East Bengal could be one of the options. I feel by them coming in, it will add value to the league. For them to make revenue, they want the league to be longer. The sponsorship comes very less for a period of three-four months.”

On the future of the I-League, he said: “You can have a premier league, then first division and second division. The names then can be changed as the I-League over the years has had many names like NFL in the past.

“What we need is a league with relegation and promotion. The number of teams in the top League has to increase beyond 10 teams,” he said adding that the FIFA delegates have studied the structure.

Bhutia further spoke about the national team and said the new coach Igor Stimac’s goal should be to reach top-50.

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“Now we should try and get into top 50. Ranking is important as you get easy qualifying rounds. People also follow you. When I was the technical committee chairman, our aim was to get into top-100 with Stephen (Constantine) and qualify to the Asia Cup, that’s something we have achieved.”

The former chairman of the technical committee further said the Shyam Thapa-led existing committee should be more vocal in terms of what its goal is. “They need to be more transparent with their ideas and views. They have to be vocal and should not compromise.”

Bengal-ATK tussle for Jobby Justin

The former president of the Football Players Association of India also spoke about the transfer tussle between East Bengal and ATK for striker Jobby Justin.

Jobby has claimed from the very beginning that he had agreed to join ATK but the I-League runner up has maintained that the player had signed a pre-contract with the red and golds for two more years.

Terming it unfortunate, Bhutia said: “It does not give a good image and publicity to the game. I’m not trying to say who’s right or wrong, but it’s important for all the parties to be fair at the same time. That’s the reason why FPAI is here.”

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