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The Indian FA president minced no words and blasted the clubs for being ambiguous in their demands…

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel said in no uncertain terms that while the I-League shall continue to be the country’s premier competition, its failure to capture the imagination of the masses has eventually led to a need for an IPL-style football tournament conceptualized by their marketing and commercial partners in IMG-Reliance.

With the I-League clubs not welcoming the new tournament, Patel assured that they need fear of them getting sidelined.

“I told everybody that we understand and respect the views of the clubs, but there has to be some solution. What do the clubs want? They have to be clear and precise about it. We need to know if they fear whether I-League will cease to be the main tournament. I-League will certainly be our main tournament and there is no dispute over it. Ultimately, the future of Indian football is with the I-League,” he was quoted by The Times of India.

Patel mentioned that while the new tournament’s role is to boost the popularity of the game in the country, it isn’t a long term solution.

While I-League is our main tournament, we also need to provide a boost to the sport and bring people to watch football and this shorter format is precisely meant for that. It will attract eyeballs and bring more fans to the game because of the way it’s been designed. There’ll be international players and celebrities and it will be played in a different format. But nobody is saying this tournament is going to be the mainstay of Indian football. I-League will always be the mainstay. But the only way, I-League can go forward is if has a stronger audience. Only the fans can make it bigger.”

We are just building this as a short-term solution. I-League is certainly the long term solution. We need to strengthen it though and this is just a part of that process. Everybody thinks we have some magic wand to resolve issues facing Indian football. Where is the magic wand? If somebody has a better solution, please come forward and share it with us.”

Patel blasts I-League clubs

With every I-League club failing to meet the licensing criterion, there is a belief that the clubs aren’t doing enough to garner attention and promote the sport. However still they do raise their voice over several issues which does seem unreasonable given that their own house isn’t in order.

“If we strictly go by the book, most clubs will cut a sorry figure. Sometimes, we have to look at the larger picture and know we have to accommodate them. If there are any concerns, we are ready to look into it. But if we have some concerns, they should also understand them. We are not some cash-rich body like the BCCI. We are struggling each day to make ends meet. Our job is not to look only at I-League. The responsibility is also to run Indian football across the length and breadth of the country.”

Patel expressed his displeasure over the clubs giving out statements in the media against the AIFF and their marketing partners, a point he also made at the AIFF Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday.

“I keep reading about someone or the other talking in the press. Do they understand that the priority of AIFF is not just the I-League. Today, on news channels I saw some news about Jharkhand girls winning a bronze in Spain. How are we to know about it? We can’t be answerable for everything. Are the I-League clubs answerable? No club has the right to lecture the All India Football Federation. These clubs are vocal is because you people (media) give them the space.”

While the I-League hue and cry about all the rights concerning Indian football being sold to IMG-Reliance back in December 2010 for 15 years, the Indian chief responded to the allegation of the decision not being taken in consultation with the clubs.

“The AIFF is not answerable to the clubs. This contract with IMG-R is not something new. It is only an extension of the contract we had signed with Zee network. And IMG-Reliance only bought the existing contract. We are willing to work with the clubs in order to find a solution. The clubs need to understand we are here for them and for football. We are not against the clubs.”

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