I-League to follow 3+1 foreigner rule after AIFF decision
- I-League clubs will be allowed to sign 4 foreigners including an Asian from the next season.
- ISL is expected to follow I-League from the 2021-22 season.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is all set to reintroduce the 3+1 foreigner rule in I-League 2020-21, the AIFF Technical Committee announced after a video conference on Wednesday.
I-League, ISL teams have struggled in the continent
The rule, which was formalised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for all its member nations to be implemented in all AFC Club Football and domestic club football competitions, mentions that:
A club can have a maximum of 4 foreigners in the squad and starting XI with one of them being a player of an AFC Member Nation.
The rule was followed by the National Football League (NFL) and I-League till the 2016-17 season. The AIFF Technical Committee met with the I-League Clubs after the 2016-17 season and eventually allowed 5 foreigners in the I-League squads to be at par with the ISL teams in the Super Cups.
However, an increase in foreigners in both I-League and ISL teams has had an adverse effect on the performance of the Indian teams in AFC Cup and Asian Champions League qualifiers. Teams failed to adjust to the 3+1 rule in the continental competitions.
Aizawl FC, Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab suffered first-round exits in the AFC Champions League. Furthermore, Indian clubs failed to qualify out of the AFC Cup groups and also faced elimination in the play-off rounds even after facing South Asian sides. I-League and ISL sides Minerva Punjab, Chennaiyin FC, Bengaluru FC, Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan bowed out of the tournament in the first two rounds itself. FC Goa and Chennai City are yet to play in the AFC Cup and Asian Champions League 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
FSDL (Football Sports Development), the governing body of the Indian Super League, along with AIFF, met AFC with all the stakeholders of Indian football in Kuala Lumpur and decided that it was necessary to reduce the number of foreigners in the ISL and I-League teams in the near future to improve the performance of the Indian clubs in continental competitions. Accordingly, FSDL has reportedly decided to implement the 3+1 rule in the Indian Super League by the 2021-22 season while AIFF will implement the 3+1 rule in I-League 2020-21.
Bengaluru FC played the AFC Cup Final in 2016 while East Bengal and Dempo SC played the semi-finals in 2013 and 2008 respectively when the 3+1 rule was active in Indian football.