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Indian football: ISL and I-League likely to co-exist for another three years

2:40 PM EDT 9/21/19
Praful Patel AIFF AFC
Winners of both leagues are also set to get a continental spot as well, as per AIFF's recent decision...

The I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) are set to co-exist for another three years, with winners of each league handed a continental spot, Goal understands.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) represented by General Secretary Dato Windsor John and Executive Director of AFC Competitions Shin Man Gil recently met All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel and General Secretary Kushal Das and discussed the possible roadmap for Indian football.

The AFC have reportedly decided to give the Indian Super League (ISL) champions the AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifying slot and the I-League champions the AFC Cup play-off slot, as per AIFF Executive Committee's recommendation.

Back in July in an AIFF Executive Committee meeting, the Indian FA had proposed the same to AFC.

Their official release read, “The AIFF Executive Committee met today (July 9, 2019) in Delhi and discussed various issues including the request letter that the champions of Hero Indian Super League (league stage winners) would get a berth for the qualifiers of the AFC Champions League.

“In light of the MRA as well as the fact that in the last 5 years the entire Indian National squad are mostly being signed/playing for the Hero Indian Super League clubs, and the TV viewership and in-stadia audience having grown far more substantially vis a vis the Hero I-League, and the Hero Indian Super League clubs complying with the entire AFC Club licensing criteria, including strong Grassroots, and Youth Development Programmes which had also been certified by the Asian Football Confederation, the AIFF Executive Committee recommends to the Asian Football Confederation to positively consider their request.”

According to sources close to Goal, it has been learnt that the AFC have acknowledged AIFF’s plan and would give a go ahead which will see the ISL league stage winners getting the AFC Champions League qualifying slot while the I-League winners would get an AFC Cup qualifying slot.

It has also been decided that the I-League and ISL will co-exist for another three years before future alterations to the league scenario.

Though the second continental spot should have gone for the winners of the cup competition, Praful Patel had expressed earlier that he had asked AFC for a special dispensation for three years wherein I-League winners can be given a continental spot. That request has seemingly been approved by the AFC.

As revealed earlier by Goal, there have been high-level meetings between Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and top officials ISL. The two clubs are trying to rope in sponsors in order to enter the ISL. It is highly possible that the Kolkata giants will exit the I-League and join the ISL as early as by the 2020-21 season.