Praful Patel on why ISL-I-League merger is not possible in the current season

AIFF president Praful Patel talks about the difficulties of a unified league featuring I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) clubs in the current season and hopes a solution can be found in the next three years.

Praful Patel claims a solution about the difficulties of a unified league must be found "which is a happy marriage between the two".   -  R. V. Moorthy

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has expressed its inability to adhere to the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) 'Road Map' to integrate the I-League with the Indian Super League (ISL) for the upcoming season. 

When asked if the AFC will agree for the ISL and I-League to coexist for the next three seasons, AIFF president Praful Patel told Sportstar, "The whole thing is being looked at in a narrow way. You have an ISL, they have a certain financial structure and the I-League has a different structure. You are talking about integrating it, but how will you integrate a club which is spending ₹2 crore a year with one which is spending ₹40 crore."

The AFC ‘Road Map’ – authored by Alex Phillips, Head of Asia-Europe Affairs, AFC and Nic Coward, a professional football consultant with FIFA – issued to the AIFF on February 2, 2018, had allowed the ISL and the I-League to run parallelly only till the 2018-19 season “on the strict condition that there is concrete agreement to the implementation of the Road Map for the unified system from 2019-20 season and beyond.”

The consequence of not having a unified league by the 2019-20 season would be “the removal of India from qualification for AFC Club Competitions.”

Patel said: "A solution must be found which is a happy marriage between the two. Otherwise it will be the same thing, a club with ₹2 crore investment won’t do well and will always run out of steam and go away. The ISL doesn’t mean guaranteed success; they must keep performing to retain public interest. Otherwise for how many years will they spend ₹30-40 crore.

We had gone to the AFC and said we have the ISL and we want to convert it to a full-fledged league, we have a lot of issues and it will take time."

Hinting at a possible merger in three years time, Patel added: "In another three or so years – the window opens and you can negotiate with IMG-R to allow and integrate after eight years and not 10. They protect the ISL clubs till year 10 and allow lateral entry from season eight. I-League clubs don’t have telecast, they don’t have schedule. We will format it like the ISL with a complete strategy to market the brand and bring them to a level (by then)."

Read the full interview here: Praful Patel looks for happy marriage between ISL and I-League

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