Speaking at the Star Sports India Football Forum 2016 in New Delhi, the man in charge of the merger of the I-League and the ISL, Chirag Tanna discussed the key issues that need to be confronted regarding the restructuring of league football in India and promotion and relegation within the top division.
Chirag Tanna who is the General Manager of Reliance Indian Limited, Sports and Integration and the former Head of Operations at I-League club Pune FC laid out the salient challenges of having the football calendar year divided between two top tier leagues and why they need to be merged as soon as possible.
Merger to increase marketability; no. of clubs to increase
"The split domestic calendar reduces the marketability of the leagues, and the national team coach complains that he can't get enough time with his players. The proposal to have a three-tier league system with ISL at the top and a fourth lower tier added later will address that.
“The number of clubs in ISL and the divisions below will increase. And we will also take the football culture of the city into account when taking up a club. All clubs will have to fulfil licensing criteria set by AIFF and AFC, to ensure they all contribute to infrastructure and grassroots development," he stated.
Relegation and promotion to be introduced
He also mentioned that IMG Reliance was keen on introducing relegation and promotion in the first division league as it is guaranteed to draw in more viewers who will have the chance to watch new teams take part each season. However, it is not something that they will be implementing immediately as the organisers will be looking to ensure such clubs are sustainably managed first.
"After a certain period, we would want to have promotion-relegation. We will make sure that the structure is stable first, where the investors can actually recover their money from their clubs whether it's in ISL or League One ... Once we are in the position to provide a good amount of parachute money to clubs being relegated, we will introduce promotion-relegation. It is definitely something we want to do,” Tanna affirmed.
Increased number of televised matches
Tanna also spoke at length about the grassroots development being organised by IMG in cities that are home to ISL clubs.
"We started with festivals and camps in the eight ISL venues and after trials throughout the country chose 40 talented players, who are currently training in Navi Mumbai under the care of the Reliance Foundation Young Champs academy. That was just the first year, and there is a well-structured expansion plan to our activities planned where we spread out to more cities.
He also revealed that in the 2017-18 season of the ISL, there will be a total of 95 televised matches including the league system round robin, semi-finals and final implying there will be 10 clubs next year instead of the eight teams we have seen so far.