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I-League clubs unwilling to lose AFC Champions League spot, send AIFF a roadmap for league football in India

I-League clubs unwilling to lose AFC Champions League spot, send AIFF a roadmap for league football in India

After the I-League clubs met with AIFF representatives on July 3rd, the mostly amicable meeting saw the two parties release a joint statement declaring their willingness to resolve issues in conjunction with FSDL and AFC. An additional decision was made to seek permission from AFC to run the leagues in parallel for two-three years until a resolution is reached.

However, statements by the AIFF president indicated that the AFC Champions League spot which is the I-League’s prerogative would be swapped with ISL’s AFC Cup slot and vice-versa. It is worth remembering that the Indian Super League’s winners were given an AFC Cup slot in 2017. 

This interpretation or lack of it did not go down well with the representatives of the I-League and they sent a letter to the AIFF seeking clarification and elaborating that I-League clubs have (over the years) earned the AFC spots for India by consistently performing in AFC competitions.

Additionally, since the AIFF has already granted AFC Cup slot to ISL in 2017, the same arrangement should continue till there is one unified league. The letter to the AIFF was followed up by a ten-point roadmap for Indian football.


The General Secretary
All India Football Federation
4th July, 2019 
Subject: Joint letter from United I-League Clubs

Dear Sir,

At the outset, the United I-League Clubs would like to extended our sincerest thanks to the President, Mr. Praful Patel who took out the time from his busy schedule to listen to the grievances of the I-league clubs.

The meeting took place yesterday at the Lalit Hotel and many points were constructively discussed with the President. He took the time to listen to representatives of all clubs present and addressed many issues in the spirit of working together for the betterment of Indian football.

The President suggested that he would approach the AFC to continue with the two league situation for at least another 2-3 seasons till a proper solution for unified league is finalised  and implemented. Issues regarding the broadcast and scheduling of I-League for the coming season were also addressed.

The President made it clear that given the current situation of Indian football, sacrifices will have to be made by all stakeholders be it ISL, I-League or others.

AIFF as a body has to keep interests of all its stakeholders in mind before taking any step. He praised the investments and contribution of the ISL since its inception in 2014 and expressed their justified desire of recognition from AFC as a proper league as currently the ISL holds status of national knock out cup competition, not the top division league.

He also gave due credit to I-League which he agreed, has been the Top Division League of the country since 1996 (earlier called National Football League). I-League follows all statues of FIFA and AFC with proper promotion and relegation structure from/to Second Division league. The I-League is rich in tradition and history, from legacy clubs to new organically formed clubs who help to develop football at regional level and form special undying connect with their fans. The President agreed that the Indian football ecosystem cannot afford to lose its longest and best serving league.

After the meeting with the President, the I-League clubs reconvened to discuss and deliberate on the suggestions of the President. In the spirit of compromise, I-League clubs agree to the broadcast plan and scheduling plans for the upcoming season even though it is not ideal. The I-League clubs also agree to continue with the two league system for another 3 years despite initially demanding immediately resolution with a unified league.

However, the clubs are not in favour of giving away their rightfully earned and longstanding AFC Champions league spot till a proper plan for unified league is initiated. The United I-League clubs insist that the AFC Champions league spot must remain with the I-League as it is the I-League clubs that have (over the years) earned the AFC spots for India to enjoy today.

The AIFF has already granted AFC Cup slot to ISL in 2017 and the same arrangement should continue till there is one unified league. 

The I-League clubs also suggest that these crucial decisions and developments should be clearly put in front of all parties (AFC, FIFA, FSDL) in the interest of the Indian football. It is recommended that a tri-partite agreement clearly outlining the way forward, be signed among AIFF, I-League clubs and FSDL for the upcoming three years to avoid recurring confrontations among the stakeholders.

In conclusion, I-League clubs grateful for the meeting and ready to agree to all the suggestions made by the President for the way forward, except for giving away of our rightful AFC champions league spot.

Please find attached a detailed summary of the Roadmap for the next three years agreed by all I-League clubs. 

Now with some clarity after meeting with the President, we I-League clubs look forward to implementations of the discussed measures and preparations for the upcoming season.

Thanking you. 
Best Regards, 
United I-league Clubs 
Quess East Bengal 
Mohun Bagan 
Churchill Brothers 
Aizwal FC 
Minerva Punjab FC 
Gokulam Kerala FC

Joint letter from United I-League Clubs

10-POINT ROADMAP by United I-League Club

1. A Tripartite agreement to be signed between AIFF, FSDL & I-League clubs giving details for the arrangement for the next 3 years.

2. I-league to be referred as the National Football league of India.

3. I-League Champions to get AFC Champions League Slot.

4. I-League Committee to be formed immediately with representatives from AIFF and I-League clubs. This Committee would be solely responsible for taking decisions regarding I-League, 2nd Division league and Youth Leagues.

5. All matches of I-League to be shown live on HD Channel with improved production quality. (8 camera set up with specifications mentioned previously.)

6. I-League Committee shall negotiate and finalize the production house. 50% of the total cost of production to be borne by FSDL with the remaining 50% to be paid by AIFF.

7. I-League matches to be played at 5PM and 7PM kick off timings. (For non-floodlight venues kick of timings to be 2PM/3PM.)

8. Working Group to be formed with representations from AIFF, FSDL, I-League clubs and ISL clubs who would plan to introduce an unified league involving both I-League and ISL clubs with prom and relegation.

9. This would ensure that the top Indian Players end up playing 45-50 matches annually which is in line with the best global practice and is a minimum requirement for overall technical development of any player. (Currently the top Indian players gets to play maximum of 25-28 matches in a season.) 

10. The Roadmap needs to be approved by the AIFF Executive Committee and should be simultaneously announced, giving all details including present status of I-League and ISL also the future plan.”

Roadmap for League Football in India

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