Six I-League clubs have written a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, asking for his help regarding the ongoing developments in Indian football. The protesting outfits are Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala. This comes after the All India Football Federation decided to gift the top-tier status to Indian Super League, a tournament managed by the AIFF’s commercial partners Reliance. ISL teams will now compete for a slot in the prestigious AFC Champions League, an honour that so far remained with I-League teams.
The clubs are mainly concerned with the way the AIFF is dealing with everything, including their Master Rights Agreement (MRA) with Reliance's subsidiary, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). The tie-up was originally signed in 2010, between the apex body and IMG-Reliance. The MRA also forces the AIFF to make ISL, India's top division.
But the question is, will a letter even work in favour of the I-League outfits, as the federation's president Praful Patel is also a FIFA Council member and is a powerful person in football's hierarchy now.
In the letter to Infantino, the clubs wrote, "Recent media reports and press statements from the AIFF itself have indicated that the AIFF is seeking to make the ISL, which came into existence in 2013, the senior most league in the country, whereas I-League, that dates back to 2007 when it was launched as India's first-ever professional football league is sought to be made into a second tier and inferior league."
"There is a sharp decline in the standard of Indian football. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, including India, but this popularity has not been matched by necessary and good administration as far as the national body is concerned," they wrote in their statement.
"ISL is just like the IPL of football and so the question that arises is how can a purely commercial league be made into the senior-most league of the country which has no international recognition or standing."
The clubs had also earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, regarding the current situation. The outfits also want Infantino to set a probe regarding AIFF's functioning, as the body seems to be controlled entirely by its commercial partners.
Earlier this month, AIFF president Praful Patel assured the I-League clubs that their future is secure and said he would approach the AFC to ensure that I-League continues to co-exist with the ISL for another 2-3 years.