I-League is set to expand in the next edition due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) forced to increase the number of participating teams to 12, Goal has learnt.
The League Committee of the federation is likely to waive off relegation in the 2019-20 campaign, since the league will be called off prematurely due to the Covid-19 crisis. Hence, apart from the exception of Mohun Bagan who are set to play in the Indian Super League (ISL) next season, 10 I-League teams will continue to be a part of the competition as of now.
Moreover, Goal had earlier reported that Sudeva FC is eager to join the I-League. If the Delhi-based club finally makes it to the competition then the number of participating clubs will again be reinstated to 11.
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The governing body is also keen to complete the Second Division and promote the champions to I-League as per norms. AIFF is set to reach out to the second division clubs before taking a final on when to resume the second division.
But it remains a challenge to complete the second division as most clubs have a contract with their current players till May 31 and given the current scenario it is highly unlikely that live football will resume within May. Therefore, if the federation can chalk out a schedule to complete the tournament after discussing with all the stakeholders, then the second division champions will join the I-League as the 12th team.
It's not a conscious decision from the AIFF to expand the league. Rather, because of the coronavirus crisis and subsequent lack of relegation, they might be forced to have 12 teams playing in the I-League.
Following a circular from the Government of India, all matches were suspended from March 15. No sporting activity in the country can take place at least until May 3.