'Perhaps one day the I-League will compare with the best leagues in the world’ – AIFF President Praful Patel

Praful Patel, was happy with the outcome of the open house meeting held by the AIFF, which was attended by several corporates, and hoped they would help improve infrastructure...

The All India Football Federation (AIFF), on Tuesday, organized an open house meeting for induction of two new I-League clubs.

AIFF President, Praful Patel, who presided over the meeting, was confident that the presence of atleast 2 corporate-backed clubs will help raise the levels of the game in India.

“Take it from me; this initiative will help all existing clubs find partners. Clubs will fulfill the Club Licensing Criteria which is very essential for development infrastructure and youth development. Football is very popular in India. It’s just that we do not have a proper infrastructure and setup,” said Mr. Patel while addressing the 30 interested corporate parties present at the Football House.

He further added: “For example, every English Premier League club has a ground, which they call their home ground. Here no club has that. In Kolkata four teams use the same ground. Now with two new clubs backed by corporate bodies coming up, these issues are expected be sorted out as they will be under the Club Licensing Criteria. All the other existing clubs will follow suit and in the process we can dream of a better League and perhaps one day compare with the best Leagues in the world.”

The bidding process will take place from March 30 till May 10 when the announcement of the successful bidders will be done.

AIFF General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das said: “The AIFF is doing this keeping in mind the development of football infrastructure and youth development. It is not a profit making exercise. That the clubs will meet the AFC Club Licensing Criteria which states that some portion of the budget should go to Grassroot Development and building Academies is actually a step forward towards development of infrastructure.”

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar meanwhile, explained the process of bidding and rules as well as regulations to be met, stressed on the fact that roadmap for the future is looking bright from the turnout.

“I see a full house inside the Conference room. Just goes to show that we are on the right direction. We want to touch new bases in our objective of a pan Indian I-League. So we are looking at investors investing in bases which don’t have I-League team but amount of interest in football is huge. For example Kerala. So we are restricting the two new clubs from setting up a base in Kolkata and Goa. It is just to create that pan India feel which is very important.”

Among the major investors who attended the meet were Sajjan Jindal, Chairman of JSW and the ex-chairman of the I-League Committee, and Shirish Kulkarni, Director of DSK Shivajians. Representatives from GMR and Hero Motors were also present, while Abhijit Sarkar attended the conference on the behalf of Sahara, while Prakash Shah, the Director of Mumbai Tigers (formerly Dodsal FC), was also present.

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