I-League-ISL merger likely after three years
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel on Monday hinted that there could be a merger of the I-League and the Indian Super League following a three-year transition period.
"AFC (Asian Football Confederation) won't accept a closed league for long. It is the reason why I have proposed a three-year status quo for both leagues to run simultaneously despite AFC not willing to allow it," Patel told Times of India.
"I would request the I-League clubs to strengthen themselves financially and otherwise in this period. So when the merging and integration happens according to AFC regulations, they would be in a better position. In three years, I-League will be in a position to thrive and be in a good shape with televised matches. Right now the I-League clubs needn’t worry about their future. Ideal state would be when a second division club plays in ISL."
Last week, the AIFF threw its weight behind a popular franchise-based league by calling on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to award its champions a slot in the continent's elite club competition.
Currently, the winners of the traditional I-League are awarded the AFC Champions League slot, while the champions of the upstart Indian Super League (ISL) gain entry to the secondary AFC Cup competition.
Patel said he is "fighting" to give I-League clubs a similar platform as the ISL.
"The AIFF has proposed to show all I-League matches in high definition like ISL with proper timings," he said. "Half of the production cost would be borne by marketing partners [IMG-Reliance/FSDL] while the rest will be equally divided by AIFF and clubs."
The AIFF had said last week that its backing of ISL for an AFC spot was based on the Master Rights Agreement, owned by Reliance, it signed in 2010 with its commercial partners Football Sports Development Limited.
It said in a statement "... in the last five years the entire Indian National squad are mostly being signed/playing for the ... Indian Super League clubs.
"TV viewership and in-stadia audience having grown far more substantially vis a vis the ... I-League," it added.
Last Monday six I-League clubs wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up an inquiry commission to “probe the AIFF’s functioning’’ fearing that the league could be demoted to the second tier.