The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is expecting the Asian Football Council (AFC) to recognise the Indian Super League (ISL) as the top league of the country with a rider that promotion and relegation is incorporated within a time frame of three or five years.
“The AFC is agreeable to the AIFF Executive Committee decision to give the top league status to ISL provided the league is made open with the clause of relegation and promotion. They are aware of the Master Rights Agreement signed with our commercial partners and have therefore not insisted on making the league open from this season. I think, they will give us a window of three or five years,” an AIFF source told The Navhind Times on condition of anonymity.
The AIFF had in its last EC decided to give the top league status of the country to ISL, thus demoting the I-league – which enjoyed the status until last season – to the second tier league of the country. The decision led eight I-League clubs to protest, which reached FIFA.
“The organisers of ISL want the status of their league officially announced before the tournament starts on October 20. Since they are our commercial partners, the AFC has been requested to convey its decision of the top league before October 20. We expect a letter from AFC soon,” added the source.
“The winner of the ISL league will represent India at the AFC Champions League qualifiers and not the winners of the knock out part of the tournament. The AFC is pretty clear on this regard because to be recognised as a league, the ISL has to follow the structure of a league and knock out is not part of that structure,” stated our source.
The winner of ISL, it may be noted here, has been the team that wins the knock out round and not the team that stands on top of the table at the end of all home and away matches. This criterion has left teams that finished first in the league format and not qualified for the finals of the knock out upset.
Bengaluru FC finished the league on top in ISL 4 but Chennaiyin FC who won the knock out and represented India in the AFC Cup. The set up is expected to change this season with the winners of ISL representing India in the Asian Club Champions League qualifier. The winner of the I-League is expected to get the Asian Cup berth.
“It is going to be a reversal of last season. ISL teams are going to reap the benefits the I-League clubs did last year and vice versa. Nothing else,” explained the source.
“Do not read much into why the AFC representative had to
come to India. After all, President Praful Patel is also the vice president of
AFC and is a member of the FIFA Executive Council too. That could be one reason
he was in India. This could have also been a personal visit where the matter
was discussed. Representative of FSDL was present for the meeting,” confirmed