I-League 2019-20 might not be restarted

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Anselm Noronha/Goal

The last fixture of the I-League 2019-20 season might have already been played, Goal understands. 

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) suspended all footballing activities initially till March 31, 2020. However, the Government on Thursday extended the date to April 15, 2020. The governing body is set to take stock of the situation in the last week of March, and take a decision abiding by directives from relevant authorities at that juncture.

All I-League matches have remained suspended from March 15, 2020, onwards. 

Recent developments indicate that it will not be surprising if the ball is not rolled again in this edition of I-League. With Mohun Bagan having already clinched the title and the AFC Cup slot to be taken up the newly formed side after the merger of Bagan nad ATK, there is little to play for the top half of the clubs. Moreover, the AIFF could provide immunity from relegation to the team (Aizawl) that is currently in the drop zone. 

With the pressing concerns of all the stakeholders addressed, the Indian FA is likely to hold a meeting of its Emergency Committee at the end of this month where the decision to annul I-League will be duly ratified. 

Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal

The AIFF had been in constant touch with the clubs about the future of this season and 'most' of the entities have also shown reluctance to restart the season. Hence, in all likelihood, this edition of I-League seems done and dusted. 

The last fixture was played on March 14 between NEROCA and Chennai City in Manipur. The Kolkata derby, involving the arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, which was scheduled a day later has also been postponed indefinitely. 

Clubs such as Punjab FC have already asked their players to go home in the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, if the season has to be restarted, the clubs will have to reconvene for a few matches which seems unlikely.

The only contentious issue is likely to be the distribution of the prize money. The second placed team is set to get a windfall of INR 60 lakhs, the third-placed team is entitled to INR 40 lakhs while the fourth-placed side will get INR 25 lakhs. But, with just one point separating teams placed second and sixth, it will be a bone of contention on how the prize money is decided for teams.

Also, Gokulam and Real Kashmir are placed sixth and fourth repesctively but have played a game less and it remains a challenge for AIFF to discuss with the clubs and reach a consensus on how to distribute the prize money.