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Indian and US Football in the same murky pool: Who will enforce the reforms first?

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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Similar to the ISL, the MLS too does not have a system of promotion and relegation.

Not just India, but almost the entirety of the world has tried to match the United States of America in most senses. Only one man truly has - Praful Patel. The USSF and AIFF stand at an equal podium, but the pedestal for the Westerners have already started to shake. Has India got a long enough rope, or is the time up?

There’s muddle in the football ecosystem in the States, and Indian administrators are probably covering themselves from the heat already. The Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top-tier and currently holds 23 teams, with a buy-in-your-way method of participation. Sounds similar?

It all started when Miami FC of the North American Soccer League and Kingston Stockade FC of the National Premier Soccer League, both plying their trade in the States, brought a claim to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), against the USSF, the CONCACAF, and FIFA for allowing the MLS to operate in a closed league system that prevents other teams from promotion/relegation on the basis of footballing merit.

FIFA President Infantino has already been told to enforce Article 9 of FIFA Regulations to US football

The water has only gone murkier.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been called upon and was handed a letter earlier this week to enforce Article 9 of FIFA Regulations to US football. This letter was written to USSF President Carlos Cordeiro and was signed by hundreds of football clubs across the country who are waiting for the right reforms.


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According to a report published by FIFA in 2017, 84.5% of top-tier football in the world follow the English football model of promotion/relegation, a system that has globally become the trendsetter with publicity breaking out of the roof. Deloitte estimates the value of Premier League promotion at a minimum of £170 million – one of the biggest prizes in world football financially. From the Premier League all the way to the Mid-Sussex Football League Division Nine is a journey for fans, players, and everyone associated with the game in the country.

Closer home, Indian football too is standing on a sinking ship. While clubs out of the Indian Super League (India’s complement to the MLS) haven’t managed to take the case to the CAS, the AIFF is still battling a deadline from the Asian Football Confederation, failing to adhere to which, India will lose recognition from the continental body and the already-slender chance to win anything in Asian football.

TV Presenter Joe Morrison last week tweeted the story and asked the Indian supervisors to take notice of the situation in the States. It bears an eerie resemblance. It just highlights that the closed league system is not just wrong in the sporting spirit, but also illegal. The AIFF, which has by now thrown its weight around the FSDL-operated league, will need to find a way to deal with the growing turbulence.

Research in the past have shown that some of the best disputations for abandoning the closed league system are commercial. Footballing merit, too, comes into play. It remains to be seen how the case ends at the court, and it will either be a shimmer of hope or the end of an adventure for Indian football’s extravaganza.

Published: Wed Mar 27, 2019 03:29 PM IST

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