FIFA, AFC officials to prepare draft for merger of leagues

After meeting all state associations and clubs across the country, FIFA and AFC officials will do market research and then prepare a draft on the merger of the I-League and the Indian Super League, Utpal Ganguli, Indian Football Association (IFA) secretary said on Wednesday.

A two-member team comprising of Nic Coward, a consultant to FIFA, and Alex Phillips, Head of AFC-UEFA Affairs, met IFA officials at a hotel in the city.

They are here to chart a roadmap for Indian football which currently has the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) scheduled to run simultaneously this season.

“We had a long meeting. They heard us out. They will do market research and will make a draft after that based on the research. They will then most likely meet all stakeholders and submit a report to the AIFF (All Indian Football Federation) executive committee after that,” Ganguli told reporters here.

Besides Ganguli, AIFF senior vice-president and IFA president Subrata Dutta was also present in the meeting.

The FIFA and AFC officials are slated to meet East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting clubs on Thursday.

“I said heritage clubs should not be kept in the same bracket as franchise clubs. As they have taken the sport to a certain level where sponsors started coming, they should be given that respect,” Ganguli said.

“I said they should be invited and not asked for franchise fee when there is one league in the country,” he added.

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal refused to pay a franchise fee when they had the chance of joining the ISL bandwagon earlier this year. Former I-League champions Bengaluru FC jumped ship and will be playing in the cash-rich league.

“I hope the decision will be in our favour but if otherwise we will take necessary steps. They (FIFA and AFC officials) recognised the issue. They have not said anything specific though,” Ganguli said.

The draft is expected to be ready by the end of October or the beginning of November.

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