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AIFF's I-League to have 10 teams
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November 21, 2007 19:25 IST

As the All India Football Federation launches the first ever professional league in the country, it has stressed on the need for more clubs to be included in the top division to create a bigger pool of players for the national team.

The 'I-League' will kick-off in Margao, Goa [Images], on November 24 with a match between National League champions Dempo and Salgaocar.

Popular film star John Abraham [Images] will be present at the opening ceremony to promote his film Goal.

The 18-round league will end on March 30.

The first edition will feature 10 teams -- mostly from Kolkata, Goa and Mumbai -- but the Federation and its broadcast partner, Zee Sports, are looking to increase the number of clubs in future.

"There will be two clubs relegated and four promoted from the second division each season and after three years, we aim to have a top division of 16 teams so that most of the country is represented," Gary Lovejoy, Chief Operating Officer of Zee Sports, said.

"The following of the league will increase considerably if youngsters have a local team to support."

To enhance the viewing experience, the channel is trying to rope in foreign commentators who work on the various European leagues.

"Former Chelsea, Southampton and England [Images] star Graeme Le Saux has agreed in principle to do commentary for us and more such personalities may join us," Lovejoy said.

In a departure from previous years, the organizers released the full schedule of the league in one go, but how long it stays unchanged remains to be seen.

"Out of the 90 matches, we aim to telecast about 50 live. Any more will result in people not going to the stadium for the game, a phenomenon largely seen in Italy [Images]. We will, of course, broadcast the second division as well," he said.

The league champions will take home Rs 50 lakh, while the second and third placers will pocket Rs 28 lakh and 20 lakh respectively. The highest goal-scorer will get Rs 50,000.

The league also has a media committee, with Delhi Soccer Association secretary N K Bhatia as convenor.

The league's logo - Footzee � was also launched and the AIFF plans to give more freedom to the clubs in the financial side of the matches.

The clubs will keep 90 per cent of profits from the gate receipts, thus prompting them to employ better financial management methods.

"It's time the clubs step up as we aim to take Indian football to the next level," Lovejoy said.

AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco said the league was initially scheduled to start on September 30 but had to be postponed due to the World Cup qualifiers.

"We aim to start the second season of the I-League in September end itself," he said.

Lovejoy said the league will not get to the level of that in Japan [Images] overnight, but it will get there in less time. Giving the example of England, he said the Premiership was not at its present state a couple of decades ago.

"About 20 years ago, the game in England was not in such a good shape. Most of the stadia were poor and the quality of the broadcast was also not that great. Things improved gradually but we have to do things quicker," he said.

Lovejoy said he is considering providing live telecast of the matches on the Internet but is going slow due to pitfalls of piracy which results in loss of revenue.

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