The crisis facing Indian football reached the doorstep of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, with six I-League clubs requesting him to set up an enquiry commission and "probe the All India Football Federation's functioning".
In a letter signed by Swapan Sadhan Bose, managing director of Mohun Bagan, the I-League clubs have urged the prime minister to "intervene and save the sport".
Besides Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, FC Goa, Gokulam Kerala FC, Minerva Punjab FC and Aizawl FC were the other clubs who have requested for the PM's intervention.
"Recent media reports and press statements from the AIFF itself have indicated that the AIFF is seeking to make the ISL, which came into existence in 2013, the senior most league in the country, whereas I-League, that dates back to 2007 when it was launched as India's first ever professional football league is sought to be made into a second tier and inferior league," the clubs wrote in the letter.
"There is a sharp decline in the standard of Indian football. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, including India, but this popularity has not been matched by necessary and good administration as far as the national body is concerned," the letter further read.
AIFF president Praful Patel last week assured the I-League clubs that their future is secure and said he will approach the AFC to ensure the I-League continues to co-exist with the ISL for another 2-3 years.
A day later, the aggrieved clubs accepted most of his proposals.
Among other issues, in the meeting with Patel, the clubs had sought clarification on the controversial move to accord Indian Super League the top tier status in Indian football as per the Master Right Agreement (MRA) signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance in 2010.
"The ISL is a purely commercial venture played by franchise-based clubs owned by the clubs. It has no relevance. More importantly, players invariably are in the 35-plus age bracket. Players who have no takers abroad are roped, leading to a decline in the standard of Indian football.
"ISL is just like the IPL of football and so the question that arises is how can a purely commercial league be made into the senior-most league of the country which has no international recognition or standing. It is a closed league which has no promotion or relegation."
“We have no choice but no knock on your doors and seek justice,” the letter concluded.