The I-League clubs have a chance to play ISL without paying a franchise fee…
A death knell rung for I-League clubs when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) signed the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) with Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) nine years ago. It meant that the private entity had the rights to come up with a new league which ultimately could be instated as the top tier football league of the nation.
The Indian FA has received flak for signing the agreement and whether it was the right thing to do is a separate discussion altogether. All things said and done, I-League clubs were facing a crisis earlier this year and it was AIFF President Praful Patel who they turned to and pleaded to sort the situation out. The situation was messy no doubt, but in the end, following a high-level meeting on October 14 in Malaysia, Patel has delivered on his promise to get the I-League clubs a fair deal.
Things had come to a point where the clubs were slowly starting to give up hope. Representatives from several I-League clubs met Praful Patel in July 2019 to discuss the roadmap of Indian football and it was then and there that the AIFF President promised to look into their concerns.
The clubs had even written to the AFC seeking a solution but both the Asian football governing body and Indian FA stood firm – the AIFF needed both the leagues to run parallelly for three more seasons with ISL as the top division. And the outcome of the latest meeting is no different.
But as things stand, a window of opportunity has been opened for I-League clubs. They stand a chance to get into the top division league without paying a franchise fee – it must be noted that the fee was the biggest factor stopping several I-League clubs from bidding for a spot in ISL.
This gives I-League clubs a chance to retain their top-tier status without extra spend – something that looked difficult to achieve before Praful Patel got involved. While I-League, as it is, will become second-tier, it is only fair that clubs who have been playing in the top division for several years get a chance to ply their trade in the ISL. Hence this, amidst all the debate about the rights and wrongs regarding Indian football, is certainly a move in the right direction.