The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is considering changing the format of the I-League in order to make it more cost efficient. The new structure will be on the lines of USAs Major League Soccer (MLS),where the teams will be divided in two conferences Eastern and Western. It is believed that AIFF president Praful Patel and general secretary Kushal Das are in favour of adopting the new format from the next season.
Its an idea that we are seriously considering. The new format will not only help us save a lot of money by cutting down on teams travelling costs but also give us an opportunity to make the league pan India, Das said.
Under the new format,the teams from North,East and North East will be a part of the Eastern Conference,whereas the clubs from Central,Western and Southern India will compete in the Western Conference.
Top two teams from each zone will qualify for the semifinal playoffs and a final will be held subsequently. The teams that do not make the cut for the playoffs will battle to avoid relegation. Currently,the 14 teams in the league take on each other on a home-and-away basis.
Out of its budget of Rs 15 crore per year for the I-League,the AIFF spends close to Rs 8 crore on air fare and hotel accommodation only. If we divide the league in two conferences,it will help us save a lot of money, Das said.
There is also a possibility that the league will be expanded to 16 teams from the current 14. The AIFF is currently looking to give at least two teams direct entry into the I-League and they are keen to get a team from the south of India and Delhi on board.
The I-League has failed to strike a balance in terms of its composition,with clubs from Kolkata,Mumbai and Goa dominating the 14-team field. There is no representation from south and north,which is something the AIFF is concerned about.
However,Patel and Das are facing stiff resistance from within the federation. A section of the AIFF officials – from the executive committee and I-League core committee – believe the format will severely hamper the quality,which already is quite mediocre. Das,however,said he will try to convince the members.
We will explain the concept to the executive committee and I-League core committee members. Its important to get everyone thinking on the same page before we finalise anything, Das said.