Why I-league clubs are fighting a lost battle
by Shubham Sharma
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel is all set to meet the I-league clubs in the first week of July. The arrangement of this meeting means that the AIFF Executive Committee meeting which was scheduled earlier to take place around this time will have to be pushed back to July 9.
In the end it seems there is little hope that the two parties- the I-league clubs and the Federation, may come to a settlement in the meeting. And this would mean that the Executive Committee meeting to take place following this would announce a verdict in favour of the Indian Super League(ISL).
The Master Rights Agreement (MRA) signed between the Federation and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) has vested enough power and authority to the latter, the owners of the ISL, to subdue or even dissolve the I-league.
The I-league clubs announced that they would wage legal wars against the Federation if their demands are not fulfilled, but with all that is known about clubs playing a league in any country of the world, they have little or no authority over the competition in which they participate, and the organizers, who are usually the Federations, can bring any change to the league as long as the FIFA and the Confederation allows it.
As such, the ISL, which was started after receiving green signals from the FIFA and the AFC cannot be brought down legally anyway, nor can the I-league clubs stop it from assuming the top tier in Indian football. The battle the clubs are fighting is already a lost one.
Even weaker are the positions for Chennai City FC and Minerva. The two clubs were given a direct entry to the I-league on the condition by the Federation that they would spend at least Rs. 3 crores on the grassroot football development and promotion.
And while doing so, they signed a written agreement with the federation - signed before their I-League participation in 2017 - which states, "the club agrees that AIFF shall not be held responsible in any way if the Agreement is terminated in the event I-League ceases to exist or is merged with or reconstituted to form a part of any other league.", as revealed by the Times of India.
The clubs have now realised that the fight is now only limited to creating an open top-tier, as said by Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj.
"I don't mind even if we are pushed to the fifth division, but how is it fair that even if we become the champion of a league below ISL, we do not get to move to the top. We were never told about the MRA and AIFF's compulsions (while signing the agreement). Why would I invest otherwise," said the Minerva Punjab owner.