Asian Football Confederation general secretary Dato’ Windsor on Wednesday made it clear that the simultaneous running of the Indian Super League and I-League this season was just a stop-gap arrangement and the two will be merged together. The merger will give a big boost to Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s hopes to play in the ISL.

“It’s not a question of what we are favouring or not. It’s in the AFC constitution that one country should have one league. We just gave provision (for two leagues) for a transition period. That’s all,” Windsor told reporters at the Salt Lake Stadium on the sidelines of the England-Brazil FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal here.

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“There will be one league for sure. For the time being, because of the situation we had to do it (have two leagues this season),” he said.

The ISL and I-League will run simultaneously this season as the All India Football Federation failed to resolve Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s refusal to give franchise fee required to be in the ISL. Windsor further spoke highly of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s contribution to keep India’s football alive.

Rich legacy

“We cannot forget their legacies. We are very conscious of their contribution to Indian football. If today football is alive, it’s because of these clubs,” he said.

A two-member team of FIFA and AFC-UEFA Affairs Committee was here last month to meet the two clubs and prepare a blueprint for Indian football.

“There were some experts here who have prepared the report, which I’ve not seen yet. On one side, you have the legacy clubs; on the other side there are the modern ISL clubs. I’ve to see the report, sit with ISL and discuss what needs to be done. How do we take the best of both for Indian football that should be the focal point rather than talking about merger,” the AFC top official said.

‘No compromise’ on participation fee

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das, who accompanied Windsor, also reiterated Windsor’s clarification but also said Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will have to pay “participation fees.”

“There will be one league. We will make all the efforts to have one league from next season. They have to make a choice. They (Mohun Bagan and East Bengal) have to pay up participation fees. It can’t be compromised,” Das said. He clarified that this ‘participation fee’ is different from the ‘franchisee fee’ amounting to Rs. 15 crore that the two clubs refused to pay.

Impressed with the successful hosting of the U-17 World Cup, Windsor said this should be a new beginning for Indian football. “We have to take this as the base and keep going forward. The football development in Asia is our top priority. There are many countries in Asia who don’t even have proper stadium facilities. We have a set of plans in place and it’s about taking it forward. It’s about developing infrastructure for the betterment of football.”

Asked about the venue change in a U-17 World Cup semifinal from Guwahati to Kolkata, he said: “It’s unfortunate but we don’t have any say on nature.”