There have been allegations on the All India Football Federation ever since the launch of the Indian Super League back in 2014. Questions have been raised that the AIFF protects the interest of the ISL clubs and there is a change in attitude when it comes to the treatment of the I-League clubs.
In a reaction to that several I-League clubs joined hands and decided to boycott the Super Cup and blamed the Indian FA for favouring and protecting the rights of their marketing partner FSDL unfairly.
However AIFF General Secretary, Kushal Das believes that Indian football could have been in severe danger had not their marketing partners intervened at the correct time.
Speaking to IANS, Das said, “Let me give you the real picture. In 2010 when our previous marketing partners walked out of the contract, the federation was in dire straits. It then had no money, had no television coverage and the creditors were calling up every second day. I am telling you that had not IMG-R come forward and supported us, then Indian football could have been in deep trouble”.
Das believes that the emergence of ISL in support of IMG-R helped them rope in huge investors like JSW, CESC into the sport which was not possible earlier.
“We must not be uncharitable to IMG-R or FSDL. They have invested money and yes, while the model they have brought in is a franchise based model, there are big corporates coming forward?..there is JSW, there is CESC, there are others.”
“They have come in and have joined hands to support football. It was not happening earlier. They have created a buzz. The start of the ISL has definitely helped. The buzz may have gone down a little bit as we are trying to find ways but it is definitely the right model,” he added.
He also reciprocated to the common belief that the ISL was a launch to kill the interest of the I-League clubs. He rubbished the thought and said it was instead launched to make the league more financially stable all around. But unfortunately, no investor or broadcaster came up and showed interest in the I-League.
“While IMG-R signed the deal with AIFF in 2010, they started the ISL only in 2014. For five years they tried all the possible ways if the existing structures could be revamped.
“They spoke to broadcasters and sponsors. But the fact of the matter is people were not interested. They all said the model would not work. By that time several other leagues in other sports were franchise-based. That is when Star (television) came in. They said if the new model could be adopted, then they can be the broadcasters”, Das continued.
He clarified that the I-League clubs were running in loss already and with every year they were losing more money. He also blasted his critics as he denied the allegation of AIFF’s indifferent behaviour or favouritism towards the ISL clubs.
“We must acknowledge and appreciate the fact that our marketing partners have brought in many investors. We have to respect that, ” Das went on.
“We must wake up and smell the coffee. We cannot deny the best national players play in the ISL. But I am glad there is still the importance of I-League because it has moved to various regions from north to south to northeast.”
“However, to be honest, had the I-League created the value everyone was looking for, then there was no need to bring in anything else. You have to understand without the commercial value and the money coming in, it won’t work,” Das clarified further.
The AIFF General Secretary completely disagreed with the allegations of FSDL being the catalyst for the federation in their every move or decision. He clarifies that the FSDL only puts up their opinion on marketing matters.
“They do not interfere in any other policy matter. Sadly, it is a perception that has been created and is not helping Indian football. In the last five-six years, Indian football has moved ahead… youth leagues have been created and it is progressing in under-13, under-15, baby league etc.”
“The national team is doing well, their ranking has improved, the viewership has increased. There is hardly any reason to create this negativity. It is not even helping anyone, not even those who are spreading it,” Das concluded.