Sunando Dhar, the I-League CEO, stated that the eventual plan is to ensure that there is more participation of clubs from various regions of the country instead of just a select few which would add a more national feel to the country’s best competition – the I-League.
Of the fourteen clubs in the I-League, four are each from Kolkata and Goa which in a way dents the league in many ways.
Earlier Praful Patel, the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), had mentioned of a franchisee system wherein corporate would need to fill in a few additional criterion apart from the AFC club licensing norms to be a part of the I-League.
“We would like more teams from Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore when the franchisee system would be floated. There are corporate who are interested and for now, we are preparing a strong base before that comes into place,” said Dhar.
On being questioned whether those teams would gain a direct entry into the I-League instead of going through the cumbersome process of the second division I-League, Dhar said, “It’s too early to comment on that. We would have a few financial injunctions for these teams. I would say for the moment we are planning towards that. Hopefully in a couple of years time, we will get there.”
One of the major issues faced by the I-League is that the popularity of the Premier League football has swept away whatever little support the local clubs would get any which ways due to several reasons.
Why should a football fan living in India bother about the I-League? What is its USP?
“I-League is the best offer in Indian football. A lot of changes are being made and many are in the process. We request the fans to come and support teams, support Indian football.”
Dhar was pleased that this season the I-League would be telecasted nationally on Ten Action+ which is heartening news for the Indian football fans.
“Among the major changes from last year, it has to be that we have managed to get a broadcaster and the fact that the clubs are hosting their own home games.
“This year, we have also had a few promotional activities within the budget. We tried to do something new which shall garner some eyeballs for the league.”
The I-League CEO highlighted the importance of media who shall play a vital role in promoting the I-League.
“The media have the most important role which is to promote the league. We are not the best and have deficiencies of our own. The media can certainly be critical but a constructive criticism can always help.”
It’s been noticed that the I-League clubs change their coaches quite often and except for Armando Colaco, probably none of the teams have had a coach for more than four years in the I-League era since 2007.
“This is certainly not the best thing to happen as just like every player needs time, every coach also needs time to adapt. If you see the team which has been most successful, Dempo SC, they have managed to retain their bulk of the players and their coach. By the time a new coach comes in and adapts, several months are wasted in that process.”
Dhar mentions that this season’s I-League would be the “most competitive” given that any of the “top eight” clubs could win the title.
“On their day, any club could beat just about anyone. But on paper, East Bengal have the most balanced side.”