After having a look at several aspects of Rob Baan’s master-plan for the betterment of Indian football, Goal now have a look at what he has to say about the domestic competitions in India, which have been under the limelight recently, thanks to the tussle between the clubs, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance, regarding the new IPL-style tournament.
According to the AIFF Technical Director, the I-League has been a successful endeavour in increasing the viewership and popularity of Indian Football as compared to the National Football League before 2006. Most of the clubs are backed well financially by passionate owners, and the players are paid well. Through publicity and media coverage, it can be said that the I-League has put Indian football back in the national consciousness.
However, he adds, the league falls way short of the potential that a country as large as India offers. With only 14 I-League clubs and 21 Second Division teams in a country with 1.3 billion, the AIFF takes up the challenge to have a league with an exciting format to further increase viewership, generate money and create buzz.
There are though, many problems that exist in the current system, including at the level of the individual clubs.
He goes on to list them as a lack of infrastructure, elaborating about how no club owns a stadium and end up sharing it with several teams. Lack of floodlights are also a major issue, as they force games to be held during afternoons, which lead to poor turnouts and bad quality of matches.
Need to fill-up the empty stands...
The fact that most of the clubs are based out of Goa and Kolkata is also a big problem, as many other states go unrepresented.
Lack of fan support for most clubs and the timing means there is hardly any coverage for the league, reducing the marketability of the league.
This leads to lack of funds for further expansion of the league and leads to lack of motivation amongst clubs, to improve themselves.
Baan though, thinks these problems are surmountable, with the help of a Super I-League! However it must be noted that the Super I-League must have a connection with the I-League and not just be a competition having new franchisees or clubs.
That would involve clubs signing an ‘icon player’, something which the AIFF has spoken of recently, and Baan notes that this method has received a lot of success in other countries.
According to the AIFF Technical Director, the main objectives of such a league will be to improve marketability of Indian Football, invite more investments into Indian Football, incentivize competition and professionalism in Indian clubs
It would be expected to de-localize competitive club football in India and raise the level of performance of the players.
The AIFF, he reveals, is currently working with its partners IMG-Reliance to have a super structure on top of the existing I-League to accommodate the Super I-League.
The Super I-League is expected to make Indian football more attractive and marketable. However, it has to be clarified that despite introduction of a super league, the objectives of the I-League will only be met if other aspects such as infrastructure and professional organization of matches etc. are given their due attention.
If executed well, the proposed league structure has the potential to address majority of the issues facing the I-League today.
The new Federation Cup format...
As the I-League and Super I-League are aimed at rewarding the most competitive clubs in the country, the Federation Cup can be used to increase participation and popularize club football in different parts of the country in Baan’s view. Accordingly, he proposes a structure to give an opportunity to regional clubs to complete at a national level with the top I-League clubs.
The AIFF Technical Director opines that a new system, in which the teams would travel by train for qualifiers and be involved in a knock-out competition where the home side will be drawn by lots, will lead to reduction in costs for the AIFF.
The new structure would involve a qualification phase, in which 32 teams play in a knock-out system with 2 qualifying for the main phase. Matches will be held at one of the two teams’ home stadium (decided by draw).
This will be followed by a main draw, in which 16 teams play in a knock-out format. Matches will be held at one of the two teams’ home stadium.
It is intended that the Federation Cup be inter-twined with the I-League, hence becoming a season-long competition. Currently about 1.5 months is devoted to the Federation Cup and this delays the start of the I-League. In addition a 6 week break currently taken for the AFC Qualifiers, needs to be shortened to a maximum of two weeks.
The time saved by the above will make the Super-league scheduling possible.
He also reminds that other constraints like the Cricket Indian Premier League, Monsoons, should be taken into consideration, while designing a window for the Super League, which should have an adequate interval for an auction window.
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