By Samindra Kunti
February 16 – The forthcoming Indian Women’s League will have no participants from the Indian Super League and I-League, leaving the league in its second edition without the support of India’s highest profile men’s clubs.
Last year, the All India Football Federation launched the first-ever professional IWL in a bid to boost the domestic women’s game. The 2017 league enjoyed the participation of six teams, including FC Pune City from the ISL, but this year all the franchises and clubs from the ISL and I-League, India’s two main leagues, have declined to participate.
“The ISL/I-League teams had told us that they would participate in the tournament. It’s disappointing to see that none of the teams have registered,” said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das on the issue.
“Hopefully, they will understand the importance of women’s football and rethink about their participation in the sole (national) women’s league in the country,” he added.
The format of the IWL grants a direct entry to ISL and I-League clubs in the final round of the competition, but that hasn’t been enough to sway the clubs. The final round is a six-team league with four spots reserved for the ISL and I-League clubs. Last year the IWL organisers went ahead and held the qualifiers in Kolhapur. Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union qualified after topping their respective groups for the final round.
This season the league’s organisers have been forced to ask the top-three teams from each qualifying group to play in the final stage, but due to travel cost concerns Punjab’s United Warriors Sporting Club, who finished third in their group, pulled out.
The I-league and ISL clubs cited costs and the poor organisation of the league as the principal reasons for their non-participation. Das informed that the ‘AIFF is contemplating participation in the IWL as part of the AIFF Licensing criteria’ for teams to take up women’s football on a more serious note.’
Last season Eastern Sporting Union from Manipur won the IWL.
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