Mumbai: Faced with the prospect of closure of two I-League teams, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) today held a meeting with all club officials, chief promoters of Indian Super League and decided to form a working group as a precursor to merge the two championships. “We are working towards one entity in future — the I-League clubs and the ISL. A working group will be formed, about nine members, to work out the way,” said AIFF President Praful Patel after the meeting held to lay the road map for the domestic club league, in which ISL promoters IMG-Reliance were also represented.
Patel said that I-league-ISL merger cannot be done overnight and many more interactions were due to take place before the final blueprint for a joint league is put in place. “Many more discussions have to take place among the working group, among whom will be I-League club representatives, people from IMG-R and AIFF members,” said Patel, who also maintained that I-League is the main league of the country.
“I-League is India’s main league. The Indian Super League may be called a league, but is in fact a tournament, like the Rovers Cup,” he said while conceding that I-League clubs had raised a lot of concerns. “There is naturally anxiety in I-League clubs about the future, we are aware. We are aware of low attendance due to matches timed at 3 pm and other issues.”
He also maintained that the success of the ISL in its inaugural season last year had trickled down to the I-League attendances too. “There has been a positive spillover effect of ISL on I-League attendances. The interest in football is getting bigger, corporates are ready to get involved now.
“The ISL has been a reasonable success in the first year and is getting better. Foreign players signed for the second season are getting younger.” All the I-League clubs, including Pune’s Bharat FC which is reported to be shutting down, sent representatives to the meeting barring Royal Wahingdoh.