The plan focuses on making the clubs a financially sustainable business while also focusing on talent development.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has presented a new strategic roadmap to bring about an incredible transformation of the sport in the country by the time the nation celebrates its centenary of independence in 2047. The stated purpose envisions honing clubs as the hotbed of talent development that can stimulate the growth of competitive football in the country.

The federation has been forthright with regard to acknowledging the lacunas in the prevalent structure of club football in India. It touches upon the unscientific scouting patterns, negligible grassroots development and lack of profitability that makes investing in them an unviable alternative for interested parties.

The document also slams that short-term vision that prohibits sustainable expenditure into these structures. It also hits out at their lack of efforts in drawing out concrete fan engagement programs as well.

They criticized the lack of focus on women’s football and the low club-to-population ratio in most areas of the country.

Financial stability and grassroots development

AIFF has put forward their objectives and the places its wishes the clubs to be in 2026 and 2047 in the roadmap. Firstly, the roadmap clearly outlines the necessity of enabling clubs to optimise and accordingly maximise the revenue streams that are in place for them currently. It also talks about developing alternative sources through which clubs acquire additional income opportunities.

So, straight up, the federation looks determined to ensure that these teams are well-off financially, which is lacking under the current circumstances. There is also a remark about preparing a detailed regulatory framework to drive and incentivise the aforementioned process of identification and subsequent development of talent.

The board will hand over certain financial benefits to them for the same. Programs that help incubate developmental clubs across the country will also be devised. All in all, the roadmap plans a bottom-up approach, ensuring a holistic change in the structure and functioning.

Simultaneously, the board will encourage the clubs to embrace and put in place a methodology that promotes women’s football across the pyramid. A measure suggested to better develop the game at the grassroots level is to encourage collaboration with clubs and governing bodies. The interactive sharing of know-how will build a culture wherein teams come together to ensure that the best talents are spotted and shaped well from a very tender age.

Residential academies for player development

Moreover, the AIFF roadmap plans to ensure that fans and supporters are actively involved and engaged in this entire process. They will be responsible for helping clubs run activities, garnering the interest of a larger audience in general. By 2026, the federation looks to make the elite player development program mandatory criteria under club licensing. Close to 20 per cent of the clubs will have to make residential academies for player development. And all of them will have to have a well-laid-out and defined scouting structure. The top professional clubs will need to have their youth teams in the coming three years.

Similarly, by 2027, a competitive structure will comprise nearly 20,000 football clubs. 50 per cent of the developmental clubs will have a women’s football division. Whereas, 100 professional clubs will be part of what will be the ‘top league structure’. However, women’s football, as explained in the roadmap, will not merely exist in correspondence to the men’s game by then. In fact, there will a minimum of 20 clubs that are standalone for women’s football only.

Cut back 10 years, and by 2037 the document envisions having at least one club amongst the top four in the Asia AFC Club Competition champion. Accordingly, the document, unveiled in the presence of the newly-elected top brass of the AIFF, has prepared a detailed standard procedure that clearly spells out the route that club football will undertake in the country in the coming 25 years.

At the same time, the concerned stakeholders will have to closely monitor and vet its implementation at all levels.

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