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Should the I-League clubs now look for an amicable solution with AIFF after FIFA setback?

10:11 AM GMT+4 07/08/2019
Praful Patel AIFF President
The six I-League clubs have to reformulate their strategy in their battle against AIFF after FIFA asks them to co-operate with the governing body...

FIFA Acting Deputy Secretary-General Mattias Grafstrom has sent a letter to Minerva Punjab co-owner Ranjit Bajaj stating that the recommendations given by the two-member panel of Alex Phillips and Nic Coward in 2018 are not necessarily binding and that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) under the leadership of Praful Patel and Kushal Das, are best suited to make an informed decision as far as implementing the suggestions are concerned.

This can be regarded as a major setback to the six I-League clubs who have been at loggerheads with the Indian FA after their decision to award Indian Super League (ISL) league winners the AFC Champions League qualifier spot.

The letter asks them to 'work closely' with AIFF and to co-operate with the parent body to find the best way forward for Indian football. 

At this juncture, the I-League clubs must review their position and consider resuming talks with the AIFF. Praful Patel, President of AIFF, had earlier assured them that I-League matches will be broadcasted in high quality and the games will also be scheduled at a more favorable time. 

"The I-League clubs are also concerned and I respect their concerns. When the I-League is going on they have scheduling issues, broadcast issues. All these things have to be given the right solution and it must be resolved. I have given them that assurance," Patel said after meeting the clubs in early July.

"I agree I-League should also be produced and broadcasted with high quality. The schedule will be of six-seven months so the leagues will run parallel. The timing of games can always be changed. The I-League had some issues with the broadcast, matches being played early. All that can be resolved. I told them that we will try to resolve those issues," added Patel. 

With their primary concerns assured to be addressed and FIFA acknowledging that their recommendations need further introspection before they are implemented, it becomes imperative that they choose to drop arms against AIFF and sit on the table to find an amicable solution to the problem.

The clubs can move to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) or appeal against the Master Right Agreement between FSDL and AIFF in the Indian Judicial system but that will only complicate matters and delay the process of breaking the deadlock. 

Even if the clubs approach the court, a decision in their favour is highly unlikely given that the governing bodies of the game (FIFA & AFC) have empowered the AIFF's stand.

As things stand, the time might just have come for the clubs to stop the fighting and find a solution through dialogue.