All India Football Federation (AIFF) recently celebrated its Platinum jubilee and it sure was a grand occasion where players from the glory day’s of Indian football were felicitated. The celebrations continued on to some fine performances by India at the Nehru Cup where we beat Syria and Maldives and seems like we will end up winning the only cup we win almost every year. However, all is not well with Indian football at the club level.
AIFF and it’s commercial partner IMGR have been struggling to put together a blueprint for the club level football scene in India and the clubs who play the top flight club football under I League have been left frustrated with development in making the league financially stronger. The clubs have also formed IPFCA which functions on the lines of G14 of Europe.
Last Friday I tweeted about how it was the most important day in Indian football with the AIFF & IMGR meeting IPFCA to discuss a way forward with a IPL style football league and India’s desire to host FIFA U17 World Cup – whereas IPFCA was keen to know what they have in mind for the existing league and weather the league will get a separate legal identity.
Not much to any one’s surprise the crucial meeting between the 13 representatives of the I-League clubs, AIFF and its commercial partners IMG-R fell through for reasons below:
- AIFF and IMG-R failed to fulfill demands of making the I-League a separate legal entity, an important ingredient for professionalizing of Indian football under AFC guidelines.
- The proposed IPL style football event with retired or just-retired top footballers from Europe and South America was met with a luke warm response – This created fear that the already suffering I-League may take a hammering.
- IPFCA representatives also said that the presentation about the league was very vague and added more and more questions to their vague planning.
- United Sikkim staged a walkout when the presentation on the short-term league began.
- When the clubs representatives pressed for a referendum on their demand for making the I-League a separate identity, chairman Subrata Dutta, decided to adjourn the meeting citing that there was no provision for voting in the constitution.
The very fact that AIFF and IMG-R thwarted club demands for treating the I-League as a separate legal and commercial entity were shot down while simultaneously being told that the proposed tournament would be separate legal entity irked the clubs.
In spite of the failure of the meeting there were a couple of positive outcomes from the meeting:
1. A 10-member committee will be formed to take the plan forward. The committee will comprise of three members each from AIFF, IMG and clubs mean while AIFF technical director Rob Baan is the other member. The task for this committee will be to ensure the proposed event is a pan India event.
2. The clubs, AIFF and IMG-R will plan to make efforts to establish joint marketing initiatives for the I-League through a dedicated website, social media platforms to increase awareness and increase Match day attendance by 10-15 per cent.
As a football enthusiast I hope there is a resolution to these issues and I hope there is some outcome in this celebratory year for Indian football.