Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is set to block a possible relegation of Chennai City FC to the second tier of the Indian football league.
For the last two seasons, two top tiers have been existing in the Indian football league: ISL and I-league and the governing bodies FIFA and AFC have asked the AIFF to complete the process of restructuring the Indian football league reinstating the single top-tier system.
While the Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to become the top tier of the Indian football, controversy has surrounded this development as the organizers of the league, the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) owned by Reliance is not willing to allow any 'free' entry to the league and is asking for the entrants to pay a sum of 15 crore rupees per season to join the elite bandwagon.
This has caused a huge uproar amongst the I-league clubs and a section of Indian football fans. The I-league clubs run on a very small budget and will never be able to pay the franchise fee of that amount.
In spite of the massive protests, the relegation to the second division for the I-league clubs seems inevitable, in spite of the fact that the FIFA-AFC report has suggested the AIFF create a top tier league of 12 teams with 2 I-league clubs which further has to be expanded to 16 teams with promotion and relegation.
However, AIFF and FSDL are set to receive a huge setback as the Asian football governing body may block the relegation of Chennai City FC. The newly crowned champions of the I-league is all set to participate in the AFC Club competitions. According to the current system, the winners of the Indian Super League get a playoff spot in the AFC Cup, Asia's second tier competition, while the winner of the I-league gets a preliminary round spot in the AFC Champions League, the top club competition in the competition.
As a result, Chennai City FC is set to play the AFC Champions League qualifiers in the 2019-20 calendar year and the AFC may not allow the club to participate in the competition while remaining in the second division of the Indian football league, which will be called 'League One' from the next season.
This means that the AIFF might need to put the club in the top tier of the Indian league, irrespective of the fact that they might not be able to pay the league franchise fee. Only if the club voluntarily withdraws itself from participating in the competition, the AFC may not force the federation to do so. In that situation, Quess East Bengal being the runner-ups in the competition might very likely be playing the Champions League. QEB will bid for an ISL spot next season.
The Asian Football Confederation is awaiting confirmation from the AIFF regarding the possible forceful relegation of CCFC and may send a notice in response.