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AIFF Executive Committee to Discuss India Football Roadmap as I-League Clubs Raise Concerns – News18

AIFF Executive Committee to Discuss India Football Roadmap as I-League Clubs Raise Concerns – News18

The AIFF’s executive committee will meet next week to discuss how the roadmap of Indian football agreed upon in 2019 could be implemented in full after the I-League Clubs Association sent a letter to the federation, raising concerns on a few key issues.

Under the Indian football roadmap agreed upon by the stakeholders in 2019 with the involvement of the continental body, the top-tier Indian Super League (ISL) was to have relegation from the upcoming 2024-25 season onwards, but nothing is known in the public domain till now regarding this. The ISL starts on September 14.

The other part of the roadmap has been fulfilled as I-League champions of 2022-23 season — Punjab FC — have been promoted to the ISL (2023-24) season. Mohammedan Sporting, the 2023-24 I-League champions, are also promoted to the ISL (2024-25 season).

In a letter to the All India Football Federation chief and executive committee members, I-League Clubs Association president Ranjit Bajaj has threatened legal action if the AIFF does not follow the Indian football roadmap.

“Reneging on the written commitments made to the I-League clubs to follow the Indian Football Roadmap presented by the AFC would constitute a serious breach of trust,” Bajaj wrote in the letter.

“Moreover, any deviation from the declarations made before the Supreme Court of India by AIFF and FSDL would amount to contempt of court. The counsel for AIFF, alongside FSDL’s counsel, has clearly submitted that the top league of the country will adhere to the principles of promotion and relegation. Failing to honor these promises will compel us to approach the Supreme Court with a contempt petition against AIFF and FSDL.”

When contacted, AIFF’s acting general secretary M Satyanarayan said the executive committee will discuss the matter in a meeting to be held in the next 7-10 days.

“It’s a sub judice matter but the AIFF Exco will meet in the next 7-10 days to discuss how to best find a resolution to the issue,” he told PTI.

“The promotion of I-League winner to ISL has been fulfilled. The relegation part is interlinked to the ISL having 14 teams and this season (2024-25) will have 13 teams only. There is some confusion. But, we will discuss the matter in the executive committee meeting.”

He also hinted that the issue is a little bit complex as the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) between the AIFF and the FSDL — the ISL organisers — ends next year.

“We don’t know what will happen to the MRA also, whether they (FSDL) are going to continue or new people are going to come. All these things are linked up to what happens to the MRA and what happens in the court.

“So, we have to take account of all these things, But, the I-League clubs are our clubs and we have to take care of them also. We will know what is the stance of the FSDL and then we will take an informed decision.”

In the letter, Bajaj has alleged that Punjab FC and 2023-24 I-League champions Mohammedan Sporting “have paid full franchise fees” to take part in ISL.

“The foundational principle of football, and any sport, is that it provides a level playing field for all, based purely on sporting merit. Financial considerations cannot supersede sporting merit at the top level. A closed league that does not follow the principles of promotion and relegation and demands exorbitant franchise fees from clubs cannot be considered the top league of the country,” he wrote.

“It is well-known that new entrants to the Indian Super League, such as Punjab FC and Mohammedan Sporting SC, have paid full franchise fees despite being ‘promoted’ after winning the I-League. This does not constitute true promotion.”

Under the roadmap of 2019, the winner of I-League was to be promoted to the ISL with no participation fee, basis fulfilling sporting merit and the national club licensing criteria to be set out by the AIFF.

A Punjab FC source said it was not made mandatory to pay the franchise fee but his club paid it to be able to have a share of the revenue generated by the ISL in the future.

“Our club was promoted on sporting merit, and it was not mandatory for us to pay franchise fee. But we were given an option (by the FSDL) to pay the franchise fee if we want to have a share of the revenue generated by the ISL. We took the option and paid the franchise fee.

“If we did not pay the franchise fee, we would still have played in the ISL but would not have been eligible to have a share of the central pool of revenue.”

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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