The letter comes close on the heels of the clubs’ meeting with AIFF President Praful Patel.
The Indian football fiasco continues as six I-League clubs have now written a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi over their concerns with the All India Football Federation.
Headed by Mohun Bagan managing director Swapan Sadhan Bose, the other clubs include Aizawl FC, Minerva Punjab, Churchill Brothers, East Bengal and Gokulam Kerala. These clubs are at loggerheads with the AIFF after the Indian FA indicated it would make the Indian Super League the top division of the country. Such a move, they allege, would amount to forceful relegation of the I-League clubs after being in the top division for so many years.
The clubs had their much-awaited meeting with AIFF President, Praful Patel to discuss the roadmap for Indian football last Wednesday. The main highlight from the meeting was the decision to stick to the two-league system for at least three more years, until things get sorted out. But, as things intensify the I-League clubs have directly contacted the PM regarding the conundrum in Indian football.
Coming to the letter, it starts by explaining the current condition of Indian football and how the traditional tournaments have become obsolete over the years. It also highlights the decline in the national pool of players and the absence of a proper roadmap.
“There is a sharp decline in the standards of Indian football. With very little football activity. Many domestic tournaments cancelled by the AIFF as well as due to the withdrawal of domestic clubs from I-League, due to no future of the I-League and no proper roadmap. The national pool of players is considerably reduced leading to little or no choice in selecting players for the national team for major international events, inspite of such a huge population of our country.”
The letter then goes on to point out that the AIFF was founded to improve and popularize the sport in the country, particularly through youth development programmes. Hence, the AIFF is affiliated with the Asian Football Confederation and therefore is bound to follow their guidelines. The clubs further mention the I-League to be the first division of India following the FIFA licensing and stated the ISL as being, “a franchise-based league that does not follow the FIFA principles of promotion and relegation.”
The letter went on to explain to Modi how a nation cannot sustain its footballing growth and cover such a large population with only one football tournament. They also raised their concerns over the AIFF’s decision to snatch their elite status and hand it over to the ISL in the future.
“The ISL is a purely commercial venture played by franchise-based clubs owned by the rich. It has no relevance to Indian soccer. More importantly, players invariably are in the 35-plus age bracket. Players who have no takers abroad are roped in leading to a decline in the standard of Indian football. ISL is just like IPL of cricket and so the question arises that how can a purely commercial league be made into the senior most league of the country.”
The letter further went on to speak about the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) signed between IMG-R and AIFF back in 2010 and also accused the India FA of surrendering their control to a private organisation.
“Though IMG-R is to pay a fixed sum of money to AIFF every year, the MRA contemplates spending of this money to be subject to IMG-R’s approval in every aspect. The AIFF has effectively lost all control and is subservient to IMG-R, which is unconstitutional.”
The clubs also complained about the AIFF’s acitons of cancelling traditional tournaments citing obligations to the ISL clubs. They also raised the issue regarding the closed league structure of the ISL with no promotion or relegation.
“It is pertinent to note here that the promotion of a commercial league, i.e. ISL, as the topmost league in India is a pure conflict of interest of IMG-Reliance as well as who as per the MRA has contemplated to be responsible for the development of football in India, but has ended up commercializing the sport… and not working towards the development of the national league and promoting football at the grassroot levels. Rather the commercial business group is directed and guided entirely by monetary benefits.”
They letter directly accuses the India FA of teaming up with IMG-R for monetary gains to give up their control over football in the country. The accusations kept coming as the clubs highlighted the AIFF’s incompetence in not considering the age-old outfits and their owners, who have invested heavily in the sport over the years only to be suddenly on the verge of a downfall.
There is no doubt the clubs have written the letter in anticipation of an intervention from the Prime Minister, considering his active interest in promoting sports in the country. However, it will interesting to see what reply, if any, is forthcoming from the government.