Promotion and relegation were among the many things discussed.

India have about a month to avoid a ban from international football. A seven-member strong team of delegates from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) met the Committee of Administrators (CoA) and members of the Indian state football associations recently. The Supreme Court of India appointed a three-member CoA after dissolving the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Executive Committee led by Praful Patel as it violated the government’s sports code and other statutes. 

The Committee of Administrators consists of retired Justice AR Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, and Bhaskar Ganguly, a former Indian captain, to manage the everyday affairs of the AIFF. Many stakeholders of Indian football were fearing a ban from FIFA. A third-party interference in the functioning of the governing body invites strict action by FIFA. 

However, leniency from the joint FIFA/AFC mission reduces the fears of a ban for the time being. The delegation has also set a deadline for AIFF to hold elections. The three-day-long visit by the joint delegation observed the situation of Indian football and held several meetings with the stakeholders. Here are the key takeaways from their meeting with Indian football stakeholders:

Members of the meeting

FIFA-AFC Delegation Indian football AIFF
FIFA-AFC Delegation with Indian state association members (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

The delegation which came to India consisted of AFC General Secretary Windsor John, AFC Deputy General Secretary Vahid Kardany, Fifa Chief Member Associations Officer Kenny Jean-Marie and Fifa Director of Strategic Projects and Member Association Governance, Nodar Akhalkatsi.

In addition to meeting the CoA members and state associations, the delegation also met the likes of Praful Patel, Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs Anurag Thakur, AIFF officials, I-League and Indian Super League clubs and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) representatives.

Timeline for the constitution

According to FIFA and the AFC, the CoA must present the draft constitution to the Supreme Court by July 15. As for the draft constitution, which will help India fall in line with FIFA and AFC’s rules and codes, the stakeholders may present their suggestions until 30 June 2022. Before the final draft is ready by July 15, the CoA will also invite objections from the stakeholders if any. 

Deadline for the election

AIFF
Elections will be held to replace the ousted Praful Patel as AIFF President (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Elections for the new AIFF leadership must take place once the new constitution comes into force. The timeline for these elections was one of the major takeaways from the meetings. FIFA and AFC have directed that a Special General Body Meeting must take place by August 5. The election for the new President must take place by September 15. FIFA and AFC warned that any deviation from the timeline or delay could see a ban for India from international football.

The looming international ban

A major takeaway from the meeting is the seriousness of the situation. If it is unable to hold elections in the timeframe, Indian football teams will be unable to take part in any international competitions. They will miss out on playing in tournaments like the AFC Asian Cup and the Women’s U-17 World Cup.

Furthermore, the domestic season will not take place as long as the ban is in place by FIFA in India. A source close to the development said, “It has been made clear by the joint FIFA-AFC team that the deadlines will have to be strictly adhered to. If not, the country can be banned and U-17 Women’s World Cup will be taken away.”

Promotion and relegation

Gokulam Kerala
Gokulam Kerala, the two-time defending I-League champions, can earn promotion with a record third-time title win (Courtesy: GKFC Media)

Many I-League and Indian Super League clubs and their representatives were part of the meetings. The commencing of a relegation/promotion system from I-League to ISL and vice versa was part of the discussion. Mohammedan SC investors Bunkerhill’s director Dipak Singh took to social media to speak in this context. According to him the promotion to the ISL will take place from this season onwards.

As far as relegation from the ISL to I-League is concerned, that must wait a little longer. It would take two more seasons (2024-25) after the next for it to begin. This is in accordance with the roadmap of Indian football for the future. The I-League champions will get to play in the ISL, the top-tier league competition in India. 

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