The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have accepted a proposal to allow the winners of the Indian Super League (ISL) to participate in the AFC Cup qualifying play-off. Goal had earlier revealed that this decision was on the cards since May earlier this year.
Following the recommendation from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the AFC Competitions Committee has provided special dispensation for the ISL winner.
Under the previous arrangement, the Federation Cup champions would have earned a spot in the continental competition’s play-off.
The AFC decision means that the ISL is no more a private tournament but a recognised league under the aegis of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), AFC and FIFA.
The AIFF and their commercial and marketing partners, namely IMG-Reliance had met AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor and Alex Philips, Head of AFC- UEFA Affairs at UEFA in May to discuss two propositions.
India had propostiioned for a third sport for the country in the continental competitions which was rejected by the governing body. The idea being that the winners of I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) would get AFC Cup berths while the Super Cup champion will qualify for the Asian Champions League (ACL) play-off.
The second proposition was to conduct a play-off between the winner of I-League and the ISL with the victorious outfit playing the ACL play-off while the other automatically going into the group stages of the AFC Cup.
The Committee has approved the second proposal and the I-League champions will play in the AFC Champions League play-off round while the winners of the ISL will play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage provided that the clubs stick to the AFC rules and regulations, mainly club licensing from 2018 onwards.
With AFC green lighting the ISL winner proposal, it is a major shot in the arm for the franchisee based model which has struggled for recognition from official football governing bodies.