All India Football Federation President Praful Patel has assured the I-League clubs that they need not worry about their future.
The AIFF chief who had earlier met the clubs representatives to discuss the domestic structure had recommended another two-three years for the league to run alongside the Indian Super League subject to approval from the Asian Football Confederation.
With the uncertainty surrounding the future of the two leagues running simultaneously, the AIFF executive committee on Tuesday requested the AFC to send a representative to India in order to find a solution.
Patel urged the clubs to financially strengthen themselves in the short term before a future roadmap is chalked out.
“AFC won’t accept a closed league for long. We have to bring in promotion and relegation in three years’ time. 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,” he was quoted as saying by The 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 happen according to AFC regulations, they would be in a better position. I am trying to find a solution and not victimise the clubs. They have to understand that. Right now the I-League clubs needn’t worry about their future,” he added.
While mentioning that AIFF had to honour the Master Rights Agreement by Football Sports Development Limited that is owned by Reliance, Patel revealed that a unified league was the way forward for Indian Football.
“Exemption has been given only for a few years. We have to have one league with promotion and relegation. AFC won’t agree to a closed league forever. That’s why I am asking for a three-year window. Within that period, we have to find a solution. We can’t encourage a closed league all the time.
“Then it will mean that there will be only 10 clubs in India. That can’t happen. In three years, I-League will be in a position to thrive and be in a good shape with televised matches. The ideal state would be when a second division club plays in ISL,” he stated.
Earlier on Monday six I-League clubs wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up an enquiry commission to “probe the AIFF’s functioning’’ fearing that the league could be demoted to the second tier.
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