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The Indian FA general secretary explained how the entry of new franchisees could get the current lot to improve...

Kushal Das, the general secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), stated that the request for proposal for the new franchisees in the I-League will be made public early next week.

The AIFF have introduced the concept of franchisees hoping to attract the attention of corporate houses who would bring about a sense of professionalism and responsibility, something which is missing in the current set-up of I-League clubs.

“The request for proposal will be published on the 15-or-16th of April, which is our timeline. We want to complete the bidding process by May 10th.

“The plan is to have two new clubs but (it) can be increased to four also,” said Das.

It is no secret that most of the I-League clubs do not have their own training grounds and their youth development is close to being non-existent, barring a few exceptions. While the clubs have been moaning about the lack of revenue sharing by the concerned authorities, they have done little to help develop the game by not investing in infrastructure and youth development, but instead opting to spend on their first team squad. While the clubs may scoff at the inflated prices of the players in the market, they have only themselves to blame.

“Basically what our focus is that the clubs’ currently don’t do the most important things that they should be doing - have their own stadium and infrastructure, and secondly participate or do a proper youth development and grassroot programmes,” Das pointed.

“So our intention is to get some of these bigger corporates who have the right stature, intentions, network and the money to come forward and invest in these properties essentially for infrastructure and youth development. So automatically there will be a pressure built on other clubs to do the same.”

The plan of the AIFF is to hope that the I-League clubs learn from the examples the new franchisees would. If they do fail to do so, the Indian FA wouldn’t budge to chop as it seems that they are serious on ensuring that the licensing criterion is followed in practice and not merely on paper, as is the present day scenario.

“The intention is we want three or four very strong corporate to come in and do the right things. Automatically the existing clubs will be under pressure to do it or we will have to force them to do it. It’s part of the licensing criteria anyway. If they don’t do it then they have to move out,” he said categorically.

NO RELEGATION? TIME FOR CLUBS TO FULFILL THE NORMS FOR STARTERS

There was a suggestion last month from I-League clubs that should they fulfill the criterion that a new franchisees are expected to, the former too shall enjoy the benefit of not being relegated for a duration of three seasons.

The I-League Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA) did convene a meeting thereafter to discuss and prepare a proposal for the AIFF to consider.

“My question to them is: Where were they (clubs) for such a long time? Now that we are bringing new corporates and bringing in these criteria, now suddenly they are waking up and saying we will also do it,” Das questioned.

The AIFF general secretary welcomed the suggestion that the I-League clubs are keen on meeting the norms set as it will only help the game at large in the process.

“At the end of the day we don’t want to be unfair to anybody. These clubs have been there for a long time. But the question and even in the meeting (with the clubs in Goa), I mentioned to them that the licensing criteria has been around for more than 5 years at least. But we actually implemented it only around 2-to-3 years back. Now we have the Indian Pro Licensing criterion. Where were you then? You didn’t do much then. Now suddenly (they claim) we will also do it. Fine, if they want to do it, it’s a good thing and we want them to do so, but it should be done in a proper way,” he mentioned.

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