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I-league clubs demand AFC Champions League slot, better coverage

Six I-League clubs accepted the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) proposal to maintain the status quo by continuing I-League and Indian Super League for another 2-3 years. However, they rejected the idea of the ISL winners being given the AFC Champions League slot. 

In a joint statement issued by Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Aizawl FC, Churchill Brothers, and Gokulam Kerala, the clubs thanked Patel for hearing their grievances and said they agreed to the broadcast and scheduling plans for the upcoming I-League season.

Current I-league champions Chennai City, Real Kashmir, NEROCA FC, and newly promoted club TRAU were not signatories to the statement.

"In the spirit of compromise, I-League clubs agree to the broadcast plan and scheduling plans for the upcoming season even though it is not ideal. I-League clubs also agree to continue with the two league system for another 3 years despite initially demanding immediate resolution with a unified league," the statement said.

"However, the clubs are not in favour of giving away their rightfully earned and longstanding AFC Champions league spot till a proper plan for unified league is initiated. The United I-League clubs insist that the AFC Champions league spot must remain with the I-League, as it is the I-League clubs that have (over the years) earned the AFC spots for India to enjoy today. The AIFF has already granted AFC Cup slot to ISL in 2017 and the same arrangement should continue till there is one unified league," it continued.

As an addendum, the I-League clubs also submitted a 10-point 'Roadmap for League Football in India' to the AIFF, which, among others, pitched for the formation of a Working Group with representations from the AIFF, FSDL, I-League and ISL clubs to plan for the introduction of a unified league involving both I-League and ISL clubs with promotion and relegation.

The roadmap recommended that a tri-partite agreement be signed between AIFF, FSDL, and I-League clubs, giving details of the arrangement for the next three years to avoid recurring confrontations among the stakeholders.

It also sought the immediate formation of an I-League Committee with representatives from AIFF and I-League clubs with sole responsibility of taking decisions regarding I-League, Second Division, and Youth Leagues. The committee is to negotiate and finalise the production house -- with half the total cost of production to be borne by FSDL and the other half be paid by AIFF.

The other recommendations included 

  • I-league to be referred as the National Football League of India
  • I-League champions to get AFC Champions League slot
  • All matches of I-League to be shown live on HD Channel with improved production quality (8 camera set up with specifications mentioned)
  • I-League matches to start at 5 pm and 7 pm (for non-floodlight venues, kick off timings to be 2 pm/3 pm).

The I-League clubs also asked that the 'Roadmap' be approved and announced by the AIFF Executive Committee -- providing all details, including present status of I-League and ISL and the plan for the future.

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