The league will be played across three to four venues in the eastern state.

The upcoming season of the I-League will commence from January 2021, reports the New Indian Express. As announced before, the entirety of the league will be played in three to four venues in Indian state of West Bengal. The iconic Salt Lake stadium, Kalyani Stadium and Barasat stadium are three confirmed venues of the tournament.

The I-League was supposed to begin in December, however, the West Bengal state government has asked All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) for a further delay citing festive rush during Christmas and New Year.

The tournament will also see a change in format as the teams will play each other once instead of two and the top six teams after the first round of fixtures will play for the champions while the remaining five teams square off against each other for a relegation battle.

The AIFF successfully held the I-League Qualifiers in West Bengal in October with a strict bio-bubble in place, when Mohammedan Sporting Club gained promotion in a five-team mini tournament. AIFF officials will travel to Kolkata after Diwali to finalise the number of hotels required for safe accommodation of 11 sides and to decide the number of stadiums.

“This will see a reduction in the number of matches. This proposal was discussed with all 11 teams and they were happy with the rejig,” I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told the New Indian Express.

“We used two stadiums during the qualifiers and this time a minimum of three will be needed. A fourth might be added so that matches can be held concurrently. All these along with the number of hotels should be decided after we visit the city,” he added.

A similar safety app used in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) will be used to track movement of players and officials in order maintain a zero tolerance policy in the bio-bubble. Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) were impressed by the way the Qualifiers were staged and inquired how the bubble was made to conduct tournaments.

“CAB officials visited us and asked how the bubble was made. They wanted details as they are planning a club-based T20 tournament and we shared our expertise. It was a good moment, as the hard work we put in got recognized. We now hope to organize a foolproof I-League,” Dhar signed off.

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