Proposed roadmap beneficial to all stakeholders of Indian football, say I-League clubs

14:17 EAT 20/03/2019
Chennai CIty FC
The nine I-League clubs are waiting for a response from the AIFF president to their proposed blueprint for Indian football...

A collection of nine I-League clubs have come together to prepare a blueprint for the future of Indian football which they intend to present to All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel.

The roadmap prepared by the I-League clubs proposes a unified top-division called the ‘Indian Football League’ which also includes the Indian Super League (ISL) teams.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), we had a meeting here. We drafted a document to point out our needs. In one line, we want a unified league which we refer to as 'Indian Football League'. No ISL, no I-League, only Indian Football League with 20 teams. That means, 10 teams of ISL and 10 teams of I-League and a strong 16-team second division league. So, a total of 36 teams from all over India will be covered,” Mohun Bagan finance secretary Debashish Dutta said in Chennai.

“Everybody will stand to gain. We have also stated a financial model in order to make it sustainable, not like ISL where losses are huge. In the end, we are supporting Indian football by investing money.”

The Mohun Bagan official also revealed that the draft for the roadmap will be sent to ISL clubs.

“We are also sending this document to ISL franchises. You know that Parth Jindal (Bengaluru owner) has given a statement earlier that he also wishes for a unified league. So everybody's demand is now towards a unified league and this is the only way out,” he said.

“If you study here, we have kept (INR) 2 crore participation fee for all the clubs - no (INR) 15 and 18 crores franchise fee. ISL franchises are losing around (INR) 30 crores per year, which is a huge loss. After spending so much money, tomorrow they will go. In five years if they lose (INR) 150 crores! Money is money. It's their hard-earned money,” he added.

Dutta clarified that the I-League clubs will be willing to meet with ISL organizers Football Sports Development Limited (FDSL) if the need arises.

“Our parent body is the AIFF. So we are going to (be approaching) the AIFF president. Now if the AIFF president feels that we have to also meet the FSDL, then we will see after that,” he stated.

The Mohun Bagan official’s sentiments were echoed by Chennai City owner Rohit Ramesh who believes that the proposed roadmap is the way forward for Indian football.

“Fortunately, this (unified league) is a good way to play, as far as the sport is concerned. We are not omitting anybody. We want to play with everybody but it should be in a manner that the costs that have been put in can be recovered in a period of time,” Ramesh explained.

Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj was also vocal of his support to the proposed roadmap and urged the ISL clubs to come on board.

“Every little problem that ISL clubs or FSDL could have had, such as no relegation, we have taken care of. Then they talk about revenue model, we have taken care of that. We have even made sure that FSDL will be making more money with this,” Bajaj said.

“They will be making (INR) 40 crores from a straight fee. Then, instead of paying (INR) 50 crores to the AIFF which they now pay, we (clubs) will be paying to AIFF. So AIFF will be making money. We will be taking care of production costs as well. Then the money (around INR 2 crores) will be going down to the second division, which nobody has done before.

“Sacrifices have to be made somewhere. It's either the (I-League) clubs been shut down or the best sacrifice where everybody is the beneficiary. Then contracts can be broken. If everyone wants to break the contract, then there is no problem.”

The Minerva owner also stated that the proposed roadmap has received a positive response from AIFF general secretary Kushal Das.

“He said, these are his words, 'If these are true and the financial numbers are true, I don't think there should be any problems anywhere'. But, that is him saying it. They will show it to the FSDL and the marketing partners. Let's see how it goes,” Bajaj revealed.

Gokulam Kerala club president VC Praveen too gave his backing to the blueprint, saying, "We stand united for this cause. I think this gives enough time for the people concerned to wake up and understand that we are not against anybody."

As of now, the nine I-League clubs are waiting for a response from the AIFF president on the matter.

“We wanted a meeting with the AIFF president on the 18th of February but we have not received an appointment till now. Just now we have handed a covering letter signed by all the clubs, that we are ready to play in the Super Cup on the condition of the meeting with Mr. Patel takes place. If at all this happens, Super Cup should start (over) from the qualifying round,” Dutta quipped.