The revolting clubs had appealed to global football’s governing body to help resolve the ongoing stalemate.
The I-league clubs’ plea to FIFA has finally been answered, but not in the way they had hoped. The governing body has responded strongly in favour of how the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is moving forward with the roadmap for Indian football, urging the clubs to work closely with the federation to ensure a brighter future.
After months of rebellion, the I-League clubs had been forced to send a lengthy letter to FIFA after it was confirmed that the Indian Super League (ISL) would effectively become the country’s top league. Indeed, the AFC Champions League qualifiers spot being given to the ISL winners irked the clubs, who demanded that FIFA intervene in the matter.
However, FIFA’s Acting Deputy Secretary-General of Football responded to Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj on Tuesday with a rather clear-cut message. Referring to the blueprint for Indian football that FIFA had recommended in 2018, which the I-league clubs never saw he explained, “The review performed in 2018 did indeed identify a number of complex issues which require a prudent and measured approach, encompassing the positions of all relevant stakeholders, in order be appropriately addressed.”
The fact that a “prudent and measured approach” has been mentioned indicates that even FIFA knows it isn’t easy to implement a new roadmap at the earliest. Further, following up on it he wrote, “After further discussions, it was clear that there are numerous aspects of the recommendations that still require further consideration prior to them being implemented.”
Moreover, he also referred to Praful Patel’s short-term resolution which was announced last month, that the current parallel league system would need to continue for three more years. “We understand that based on this, the AIFF President has met the clubs and suggested a short-term solution, until a more sustainable long-term solution can be found following continued consultation with all stakeholders,” the FIFA official wrote.
Letter sent by FIFA to Minerva Punjab FC
Afterwards, the letter also reiterated FIFA’s complete trust upon Patel and the AIFF to come up with the fairest solution very soon. It explained, “We therefore strongly believe that the AIFF is best placed to do this and we are confident that a thorough and effective process can be managed by the AIFF in its role as the governing body for football in India.”
The FIFA official also reiterated their full support for AIFF’s “process” and encouraged the I-League clubs to start cooperating with the domestic game’s apex body. The letter ended with, “FIFA, together with the AFC, remains available to assist and support the AIFF with this process and it will be important that all clubs work closely with the AIFF, as the cooperation of all stakeholders will be fundamental to ensuring that the best way forward for top-level football in India is found.”
This comes as a major blow for the hopes of the I-League clubs to somehow get their top-league status back or get entry into the ISL anytime soon. Of course, as they have stated in recent months, they could go to the Court of Arbitration of Sport to fight against the Master Rights Agreement. But, that could result in too many legalities and further isolate them as effective players in any future order of Indian football.