The move which has been in the offing for a while is set to be rubber stamped at an upcoming executive committee meet.

The news that most I-League fans had been dreading but expecting for some time, has finally been confirmed. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is set to grant top status to the Indian Super League, which will raise the competition to become the top tier of Indian football. This decision will in effect confirm I-League’s demotion, which was considered to be the top league competition Indian football had to offer.

Reports suggest that the decision will be made official by next month, when an executive meeting is set to be summoned by the governing body. AIFF has changed its stance over the ISL several times in the past, however it was never in doubt and such was also the belief that ISL would become India’s most coveted league competition, especially considering the investment and attention it was gathering.

Speaking to The Times Of India, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das was quoted as saying, “It’s in the contract (that ISL will be the top league). Initially, we felt that let the tournament happen and then we will see. After five years, we have to honour the contract. Let the executive committee decide.”

The contract in question is the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) which was signed between AIFF and IMG-Reliance and subsequently between AIFF and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) – a subsidiary of IMG-Reliance. Apparently, AIFF had agreed to the terms that would ensure ISL to be the “most senior and prestigious league in India.” Another interesting clause within the contract stated that the I-League, could be “reconstituted, replaced or discontinued (temporarily or permanently).

Furthermore, AIFF has granted the FSDL “the full and unfettered right and ability to establish the ISL and to decide upon the format, rules and structure of the ISL and the teams and players which will compete in it. ”Simply put, the FSDL has complete control over the reins of the ISL and the way it would be conducted. The agreement which was signed back in 2010 for a duration of 15 years, has made the AIFF collect ₹700 crore from it.

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Therefore, FSDL has resolved to make sure that the contractual agreements are upheld and the ISL is elevated to the pinnacle of Indian Football, above the I-League, which could endanger the future of the latter and the teams plying their trade in it.  

The Times of India has further reported that, the I-League could be disbanded and replaced by a League One competition that will play as the second fiddle to the ISL, as proposed through a presentation by the AIFF to stakeholders back in 2016.

Although, there will not be any criteria for promotion to the top tier and no slot would be assigned for a place in continental competitions. The winners of the ISL would be granted the AFC Champions League playoff spot, while the second AFC Cup slot would be offered to the winners of the Super Cup, TOI has quoted its sources as confirming.