AIFF rules out I-League, ISL merger for now

The AIFF asserted that the I-League will continue to be the premier domestic tournament of the country until the merger.

Mumbai: Ruling out the merger of the I-League with the Indian Super League (ISL) in the immediate future, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) told officials from Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal on Saturday that it will talk with all stakeholders before taking a decision on the matter.

"Patel informed the representatives that the revised roadmap of India football has not yet been finalised and before a final decision is taken, stakeholders including the Asian Football Confederation would be consulted," the AIFF said in a statement.

"Indian football has made rapid progress over the last few years and it's important for AIFF to take a long term view. The AIFF has been in discussion with AFC and will do what's in the interest of Indian football," the statement added.

The AIFF also asserted that the I-League will continue to be the premier domestic tournament of the country until the merger.

The question of the merger of the I-League and the ISL has acquired new urgency since unheralded north-eastern outfit Aizawl FC capped a fairy tale season by winning the I-League, edging out formidable Mohun Bagan by a single point.

But despite winning the I-League, Aizawl's future in the top division is uncertain since the AIFF and IMG-Reliance -- the organisers of the ISL -- want clubs to pay a fee of Rs 15 crore to participate in the new unified tournament.

The AIFF only wants to allow three clubs from the present I-League -- Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC -- in the new league.

The rest of the I-League clubs are supposed to play in the second division for the next seven seasons with no hope of promotion to the top division under the new rules formulated by the AIFF which inordinately favour the teams of the federation's favourite corporate houses.

While Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are trying hard to persuade the AIFF to waive the entry fee, Aizawl have virtually no hopes of playing in the unified league as they do not have the required financial muscle.

However Aizawl's owner Robert Royte has warned the AIFF that the club officials will try all avenues including hunger strike in their quest to gain admission.

The club had made a formal application to the AIFF last Tuesday to continue being a part of the new unified league.


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