The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had claimed thus: ‘India gets a roadmap for future’. But the roadmap only suggests another meeting of the officials. The much-hyped meeting turned out to be low on substance as the impasse over the leagues continued, with AFC putting the ball in AIFF’s court again.
Officials from AFC, FIFA, AIFF, IMG-Reliance, Indian Super League (ISL) franchises, I-League clubs and the sports ministry met in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday but they failed to arrive at a consensus on merging the ISL and I-League. The AFC said they could only ‘guide’ the AIFF in making a long-term decision but have advised that the federation should decide how this year’s domestic calendar will shape up.
An official, who attended the meeting, said the AIFF is likely to decide this season’s structure within one week. The AFC has suggested that a long-term plan be submitted by October, immediately after the under-17 World Cup. Another meeting is likely to be held in July.
“The AIFF will decide the format for a short term and there was an agreement around a roadmap to deliver medium and long-term plans for the game in India through a detailed process,” an AFC statement read. “Independent research would be commissioned and analysed before being evaluated by the AIFF and the stakeholders, with the decisions on the medium and long-term pathway being taken as soon as possible after the FIFA U-17 World Cup.”
For more than one year, the AIFF and IMG-R have been trying to come up with ideas to merge the ISL and I-League and form a unified league. Having failed to chalk out a workable solution, they decided to conduct the two leagues simultaneously and allow a few I-League clubs to participate in the ISL. Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have expressed interest in joining the ISL.
However, Bengaluru want an assurance that the ISL winners will get an opportunity to play in the Asian competitions while East Bengal and Mohun Bagan want the franchise fee to be waived off. A club official present at the meeting said no decision regarding these issues were taken during the meeting.