We take a look at the various financial and management calls clubs want I-league to make to compete with ISL…

The AIFF is set to meet all I-league clubs later this month (probable date: 29th June) to discuss the various aspects of India’s Premier League next season. There has been an air of informal confirmation that the I-league and ISL will now run parallel for a longer period after the completion of the U-17 World Cup scheduled in October.

The ball’s in AIFF’s court as the AFC has already given its four recommendations to the football governing body on how the leagues should be structured next season, and non-surprisingly, all of them gives the ISL more importance than it had, expect the scenario where there’s no change made. Clearly understanding the astronomical amount of money the ISL is pumping in, I-league administrators will need to revamp the structure to ensure sustained development and a positive road ahead.

According to various media reports, Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have given up hope on their ISL dreams but want to increase the foreigners’ slot to five from four, to ensure better quality on the pitch and keeping up to the ISL standards, look to be close to shifting to the same format. ISL, in its first three seasons, had played with six foreigners but for AFC-recognition and slot, may move to a five-foreigner format.

Talking about the same, I-league CEO Sunando Dhar has said that a few clubs have requested it verbally, but the managing committee has not received any formal requests in writing. Dhar also confirmed that viewpoints of all I-league clubs will be taken into consideration before any concrete decision. In the inaugural season of the NFL in 1996-97, the format of five foreigners was allowed.

The then National team manager Syed Nayeemuddin had said that there’s a major dearth of quality strikers and central defenders as almost all clubs used foreigners in these key positions and thus, the format was shifted to four-per-team rule.

Coming to the financial aspect of it, ISL Champions Atletico de Kolkata received a cash prize of eight crores last season. The runners-up received half the amount. In comparison, Aizawl FC took home a meagre one crore, while the second and third-placed team got Rs. 60 and 40 lakhs respectively. I-league clubs are demanding a hike in the winning prize, to make sure they do not lose out to the ISL clubs. Clubs are demanding the hike in prize money to be around 50 lakh. 

On the marketing front, I-league clubs are easily left out. Thus, the clubs will ask the AIFF for a specific sum for promotional and marketing activities. The clubs believe that the away match subsidy, which is Rs 45 lakh at the moment, should rise by at least 25 lakhs to ensure better reach out to audiences. If everything under consideration is added, the working cost of the I-league might go up by Rs. 4 crores next season, still incomparable to the mighty ISL in terms of numbers.

Even with the apprehension that all major footballers in the country will turn their eyes towards to glamour of the ISL, I-league administers believe they will find 10 teams for the next I-league season.