India to have one top division league next year, AFC and AIFF confirm
The doors are open for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to join the ISL.
The Asian Football Confederation in a press release made it clear that both the leagues in India, the Indian Super League and the I-League should be merged from next season. AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John on Wednesday said that the simultaneous running of ISL and I-League this season is a temporary adjustment and both the leagues will be merged together from next season.
"It's not a question of what we are favouring or not. It's in the AFC Constitution that one country should have one league. We just gave provision (for two leagues) for a transition period. That's all," said Windsor at Kolkata from the sidelines of the Brazil-England game.
The ISL and I-League are running simultaneously this season as teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal failed to have agreement over the franchise fee required to join the ISL. "We cannot forget their legacies. We are very conscious of their contribution to Indian football. If today football is alive, it's because of these clubs," said Windsor, praising the legendary clubs of India.
"There were some experts here who have prepared the report, which I've not seen yet. On one side, you have the legacy clubs on the other side there are the modern ISL clubs. I've to see the report, sit with ISL and discuss what needs to be done. How do we take the best of both for Indian football that should be the focal point rather than talking about the merger," said the AFC General Secretary.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, who accompanied the top AFC official, said that there will be only one league from next season but clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will have to pay the participation fees.
"There will be one league, we will make all the efforts to have one league from next season. They have to make a choice. They (Mohun Bagan and East Bengal) have to pay up participation fees. It can't be compromised," Das said. He added that franchise fees and participation fees are two different things and the participation fees amount to ?15 crores.
There had been a lot of controversy surrounding the leagues and its structures for some time. We can hope that the controversies in the issue will be soon solved and a permanent solution will be made on the issue with this decision from the AFC. With one league structure coming up from next season, football fans can hope to see their favourite clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal facing top clubs in Indian Super League.