The big picture surrounding the future of the I-League and the Indian Super League appears to not get any clearer with the meeting of the representatives from the two leagues and their respective clubs , officials of the football players’ body FPAI, the All India Football Federation and the Asian Football Confederation on June 7 is unlikely to yield any result.

It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of twists and turns in the saga of the two leagues, and there certainly have been a lot; a conclusion is unlikely to be reached on Tuesday. With the ISL likely to be a longer league this time around, there is a chance that the current situation of the two leagues running parallel to each other will continue for the time being.

Advantage ISL

As for the Indian Super League, representatives from only two clubs have confirmed their participation in the meeting while three clubs that the Field reached out to did not send a representative.

This reaffirms that the ISL clubs are in a position of advantage with the AFC likely to award the tournament a slot in continental competition. That, coupled with the fact that Federation Cup and two-time champions Bengaluru FC have submitted a bid to be a part of an extended tournament, has put the ISL in a position of strength.

If the expanded ISL tournament and the I-League were to run side to side as is the status quo, it would be hugely beneficial for the former due to the higher spending power of its participants. Operating expenses for the ISL clubs would rise, but with the likely abolition of the marquee player rule and an increase in the number of Indian players to balance out wages, a good chunk of the local talent is expected to float towards the FSDL-run league.

The I-League, expected to be significantly weakened by this loss of talent, may take a back seat to the revamped ISL. A clear gulf in quality may also distinguish one league as superior to the other, with the I-League’s demotion a likely possibility in the long run.

The two leagues to run in parallel

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal did not submit a bid and stuck to their demands of not paying a franchise fee and not moving their respective bases outside Kolkata. By picking up the bid documents however, these two legacy Kolkata giants left no lingering doubts as to the direction in which Indian football is heading.

They will move ahead with their demands, as will the other I-League clubs present at the venue. The Football Players Association of India, the players body have recently asked the players not to sign new contracts till there is clarity on the way forward.

As for the other I-League clubs including defending champions Aizawl which run on budgets way lower than the ISL franchise fee, it may be too steep an ask to fork up the requirements of the ISL without additional sponsors.

A merger (or a hostile takeover) appears nowhere on the horizon and unless there is a consensus on the running of one unified league, the two leagues appear to remain as they were with financial longevity and durability marking one of them as a clear victor in the years to come.