“In India we are witnessing cases of leagues that are not much more than a TV show with a spectacular set up and some celebrities but some really poor sport performance; and they are failing and folding in really short time,” Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director of La Liga in India was quoted saying in the Economic Times and his perception of the situation of football in India bares the chinks in the roadmap All India Football Federation (AIFF) is trying to draw for the country.
For a league to be successful, believes Antonio, a right balance has to be found between sports and business.
The La Liga India MD’s assertions shows in poor light, the attitude of AIFF to leave the status of the I-League clubs at the doors of Asian Football Council (AFC) because the clubs decided to write to the Prime Minister of India to solve the problems of football in India after President Praful Patel, in a meeting on July 3, had agreed to ask AFC to allow for a status quo to the existing structure for another three years.
AIFF, after the visit of FIFA President Infantino to India in 2017, asked FIFA and AFC break the deadlock of integrating the ISL into the main stream of football in India. After consultations with all stake holders, the AFC and FIFA report to AIFF stipulated that India should have one League from the 2019-2020 season.
“The FIFA – AFC report was a recommendation to AIFF. AFC does not interfere in the functioning of its association unless grave hurt is being inflicted on the sport. The report presented was a recommendation on how AIFF could go forward. It was not binding on AIFF,” stated an individual who assessed the document, after it was submitted, on condition of anonymity.
“We have the right to write to our Prime Minister. When we were asked by AIFF to give our views in writing, we did so in twenty four hours but the AIFF gave us nothing in writing. We felt apprehensive,” stated Debashish Datta, Director of Mohun Bagan after scant details of AIFF Executive Committee meeting began to emanate.
In its Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday , AIFF decided to hand over the National League to Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) – a private enterprise- and reduced the I-League to a non entity by saying in its press release that it would, ask the AFC to find a possible solution,” for the I-league.
The biggest concern of most I-League clubs – including the three from Goa (Dempo SC, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa) who opted in 2015 was the no promotion and relegation clause in Indian Super League (ISL).
The FSDL has signed a ten year contract with the franchises assuring them of no relegation for ten years which in reality means no other club can expect to join the top league of the country through promotion till 2024. Discussions on relegation/promotion may begin only after 2024.
Sources in AIFF, on condition of anonymity, claim that
President Praful Patel’s emphasis of making the ISL as the country’s main
league was because of a clause in the Masters Rights Agreement signed with
their commercial partners in 2010 that warranted AIFF to surrender running the
national league and to even terminate the
Two teams of the I-League, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal – who together have the biggest fan following in the country, have apprised the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Kolkata of their fears that the I-League is being stamped over.
Six I-League clubs- Churchill Brothers FC, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Minerva Punjab FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Aizawl FC – are supposed to meet and look at the legal options before deciding their next option.
As the clubs meet to decide their next step forward, the question that hangs in front of the fan is: Can football be controlled by a private organisation or does the national League have to be run by AIFF?