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ISL, I-League brace for upheaval as AIFF considers altering foreign player rules

The AFC-recommended "3+1" foreign player quota rule, which potentially might be discussed in AIFF's meeting on Friday, aims to encourage the development of talent from local youth academies.

Written by Debkalpa Banerjee | New Delhi |
Updated: May 8, 2020 1:57:14 pm
ATK’s 2019/20 title-winning team had seven (6+1) foreign players. (Source: ISL)

The technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has decided to meet on Friday where the contentious issue of reducing the number of foreign players in domestic leagues could be potentially discussed.

“The AIFF has called for a meeting tomorrow with their technical committee, and it’s believed that they would possibly discuss the foreign player quota,” a club official told on the condition of anonymity.

Until the 2019/20 season, the clubs in both Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League were permitted to name a maximum of five foreign players in the starting lineup. The clubs could register a maximum of seven and a minimum of six non-Indian players if their annual salaries didn’t exceed the salary cap.

But now, with the impending implementation of the “3+1” rule, the transfer policy of the leagues are in for a shuffle. According to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), teams can field a maximum of four foreign players, with at least one player from an AFC affiliated nation.

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The “3+1” structure, which has the support of national team head coach Igor Štimac, is aimed at encouraging the development of talent from local youth academies. It also paves a path to facilitate the transfer of Asian players within the continent and reduce the signing of players from other regions like Europe and South America.

ATK, who won the ISL title in March, had seven foreigners registered for the season, including Fijian captain Roy Krishna. FC Goa, who clinched the ISL League Winners Shield and qualified for the AFC Champions League, will need to rope in an AFC-affiliated player if the rule is enforced.

Some ISL clubs, like ATK, Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC, and Mumbai City, were reported to be in opposition to the plan as they have already made foreign commitments for the next season.


In the 2019/20 season of ISL, only three players affiliated to AFC countries plied their trade in the competition — Bengaluru FC’s Erik Paartalu (Australia), ATK’s David Williams (Australia), and Chennaiyin FC’s Masih Saighani (Afghanistan).

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First published on: 07-05-2020 at 05:55:00 pm

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