By Samindra Kunti
March 21 – India’s I-League clubs have proposed a road map for a unified 20-team league next season featuring both I-League clubs and Indian Super League franchises.
The move comes as six I-League clubs say they will only play in the impending Super Cup if the All India Football Federation (AIFF) addresses their concerns over the league restructuring.
The I-League clubs have been worried that the league will be relegated to the second tier of the domestic game next season and be replaced by the more marketing-driven and Reliance-backed Indian Super League, founded in 2013 and modelled after cricket’s IPL.
Newly crowned I-League champions Chennai City FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala, Real Kashmir FC, Churchill Brothers and NEROCA FC are behind the proposal of a merger of the concurrent leagues into a 20-team league.
They have approached the AIFF and president Praful Patel via a letter demanding assurances from Patel about next season’s league structure before committing to participate in the Super Cup.
“There will be 20 teams in the first division and a strong 16-team second division,” said Mohun Bagan director Debasish Dutta. “Every team will benefit and we have given a financial model so that it’s a sustainable project. Not like ISL (project) because they are suffering huge losses. We don’t want to lose ISL clubs, because they are supporting Indian football by investing money. They should stay!”
“We have handed the proposal with a covering letter. We are ready to play the Super Cup after the meeting and if at all it happens, the Super Cup should start from the qualifying round,” he continued.
Chennai City owner Rohit Ramesh said: “This is a good way to play as far as the sport is concerned. We aren’t omitting anybody, we want to play against everyone. But, it should be in a manner where the money we put in has to be got back in some time.”
The proposed league would run for nine months from September to May and include promotion and relegation from the lower division. The letter also outlined that the marketing would have to be done centrally and projected a growth in total sponsorship revenue up to 40,6 million euros (325 crores).
“The proposed 20 team revamped League, would have 380 matches,” read the letter. “We can take a conservative/practical approach and generate a total net sponsorship revenue to the tune of INR 325 crores (€40.6 million).”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1556107057labto1556107057ofdlr1556107057owedi1556107057sni@o1556107057fni1556107057