Indian football roadmap: What has AFC set for us?
by Shubham Sharma
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Monday held a meeting with all the representatives of Indian
Super League(ISL) and I-league clubs at its headquarters in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The meeting was jointly organized by the AFC and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), for which the
apex football governing body of the country subsequently handed out cordial invitations to all the
The meeting was all about a new roadmap for an Indian football league in which both the ISL and I-league
clubs could fit.
The AFC keeping in mind the report and the suggestions of the joint-FIFA report on Indian football
league prepared a roadmap to unify the two leagues to create a single league structure with promotion
Dato’ Windsor John, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary, said, “Everyone has to
put the good of Indian football at the forefront and make the best decisions to develop Indian club
football. The AFC will be very much involved to ensure the growth of the game to the next level with the
pathway to a single league.
“Every point of this package – and it is a package – has been thought-out extremely carefully and it is
aimed simply at providing the best chance to develop Indian club football. We have informed AIFF that
10-12 teams are not enough for the top League – it must be bigger.
“Everyone has contributed to the development of the Indian club game - ISL, I-League clubs, the AIFF
and the AFC – and I am sure that if this roadmap is considered further then Indian football will see the
benefits for the game. We are now all working together to deliver the best future.”
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, added: “We now have a roadmap which provides the best
opportunity for Indian club football. I would like to thank the AFC – and it's General Secretary – for their
contribution in proposing a solution to this unique problem. India is an important country for football in
“We have to be financially sustainable and take into consideration all commercial and contractual
aspects of this plan because commerce is key to football not only in India but across the world of
football. We must be cognizant of that fact of football life, that footballing legacy and investment are
equally important for the development of Indian football.”
In the official statement released by the Confederation, the following points were stated:
•In season 2019-20, the ISL will attain the status of premier league competition in Indian football.
•As a special compensation to India, the AFC will allow the winning ISL club to represent India in the AFC
Champions League play-offs and the I-League winner will get to play the AFC Cup play-off.
•Another key recommendation by the AFC is to open a pathway for two I-League clubs’ entry into the
ISL by the end of the 2020-21 season, subject to the criteria being fulfilled.
•In addition, starting with the 2022-23 season, the winner of I-League will stand a chance to be
promoted to the ISL with no participation fee, basis fulfilling sporting merit and the national club
licensing criteria to be set out by the AIFF. There will be no relegation in the ISL at this time.
•In its recommendation for 2024-25, it is agreed to fully implement promotion and relegation into the
top league, and abolition of two parallel leagues.
With this it is now certain that the ISL will become India's top league from this season onwards with the
winner of the league getting a spot to the AFC Champions League playoffs. And under the special
arrangement on a temporary basis, the I-league winners will be awarded the cup winner spot, which will
take them to the AFC Cup qualifying stage.
The next season, two clubs, which according to the rumours could likely be Mohun Bagan and East
Bengal will get direct spots to the ISL without merit and on fulfilling the criteria set by the league, which
is likely to be the entry through the bidding process.
The winners of the 2022-23 season of I-league will get entry to the ISL on merit. And from 2024-25
season the ISL must become an open league with promotion and relegation as suggested by the AFC.