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It is likely that the two month league may not be open to any potential bids for the franchisees...

IMG-Reliance, the commercial and marketing partners of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), have proposed that for experimentation’s sake they are open to conducting the eight team league for two months this season on their own without going to the market for any potential bidders for the franchisees.

While none of the I-League clubs would qualify for the said league in question in its inaugural year, there are possibilities that a few of them could make the cut the following season if they meet the criterion, as set by IMG-Reliance.

However the AIFF’s  primary concern has been whether this move shall ‘kill’ the I-League and the possibilities of seeing more clubs following the Mahindra United and JCT way by shutting down would become a reality.

The AIFF officials, on Monday, mentioned that they would like their commercial and marketing partners, IMG-Reliance to partly let go of the rights and help them in making I-League a separate legal entity which shall see the clubs, who have long suffered partly due to their own ignorance and the AIFF not bothering about their interests, being the majority stakeholders and thereby enjoy the commercial benefits.

As per the MOU signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance signed back in December 2010, the latter has acquired all commercial rights to football across all properties controlled by AIFF including but not limited to the national teams and all current and future professional leagues.  Such rights include media rights, sponsorship and advertising rights, licensing and merchandising rights, franchise rights, new league rights and any other commercial rights attached to any of these properties.

It makes little sense for them to give up their commercial rights and assign it to clubs given that the return on their investment has been negligible and any changes to the above would become a legal matter altogether. Also whether the two month league would succeed or not is still up in the air and by letting go of the commercial rights for the I-League, IMG-Reliance would have little to fall back upon.

The mooted suggestion in this regard has been that IMG-Reliance continues to be the commercial partner for the I-League while the AIFF Executive Committee lets go of its power in running the country’s national league to allow the clubs, the league and a minor representation from the central football administrative body to run its affairs. IMG-Reliance provides the finance to the AIFF, as per the agreement, and thereafter the latter shall assign it to the I-League committee who shall decide how to utilize it best. The bone of contention lies in as to how would the revenues be shared between the I-League clubs, the I-League body and the commercial partners.

Meanwhile 11 stadiums have so far been identified for the fledging league wherein IMG-Reliance are expected to invest in order the upgrade the existing properties.

It was also suggested that a certain percentage of the profits earned from the two month league would be invested back into the I-League, something which IMG-Reliance, according to sources, already has it on its agenda.

The I-League players are likely to be part of this proposed tournament as the clubs wouldn’t have to pay the salaries of their players for participating in the competition. The flipside of this would be that the players plying their trade in the I-League would be exhausted given that they would then be playing a lot more than they usually do in a football season, something which the clubs have in mind. Also it was earlier suggested by the AIFF that I-League players shouldn’t participate in any local/private tournaments, a rule which shall be twisted in order to allow them to be a part of the new league.

A meeting with the I-League clubs has been scheduled on August 6 wherein they will be officially intimated on the eight team league.

It must also be remembered that IMG-Reliance need the AIFF onboard to start the two month league, as otherwise it would suffer a similar fate as was the case with the Premier League Soccer (PLS) who had no idea on how to work their way out and at the same time stay within the framework of rules and regulations.


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