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I-League Will Be The Top League Even Without The Big Three: Praful Patel

Friday, 19 May 2017|Abhishek Mukherjee

With the future of Indian Football hanging in the balance, AIFF President Praful Patel believes that even if the big three (EB, MB & BFC) move away from the I-League and relocate themselves to the Indian Super League, I-League will still be the premier football competition in the country.

In an interview with TOI, AIFF President Praful Patel revealed that I-League will continue to be the league of the country for next three years till both the leagues merge and become a unified one. Patel added that the merger between the two leagues will be done eventually in a structured manner. "Instead of merging from this year, we will do over a period of two or three years in a structured manner where issues can be narrowed down. We don't want pain for either I-League or ISL clubs," Patel told TOI.

It is believed that the merger will be a lot easier when the contractual obligations in the ISL perish after the fifth season, opening up the scope for a merged league. The ridiculous rule of '1 City 1 Team' will also get scrapped after the 5th season.  Patel further assured the Indian Football fans that when the merger eventually takes place, AIFF will have a proper roadmap which will be sent to AFC and FIFA for approval. 

Patel also believes that the I-League coverage has seen a significant improvement this year and the matches have been more competitive than the ISL."In a dual structure, I-League will remain the premier league with champions getting a AFC Champions League play-off slot. The league will be covered by Star Sports and have weekend games. There will be better coverage on television and marketing will be at a very high level." he quipped.

Patel, however, took another jibe at the newly crowned I-League Champions Aizawl FC who demanded a slot in the ISL along with the big three. "Aizawl is a new club and I see no reason why they should be complaining. We are proud that they put up a spirited show and won the league, but don't forget that last year they were relegated and it was AIFF who reinstated them, at their request," he said. 

The AIFF President also hinted at the possibility of ISL getting a AFC Cup slot. "We are meeting with AFC (officials) in the next few days and we will take a call," Patel concluded.