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I-League clubs send missive to FIFA president

Panaji: Six I-League clubs on Monday sent a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino seeking his help in their fight for survival of football in India. The letter has been endorsed by Churchill Brothers from Goa, Mohun Bagan , East Bengal, Minerva Punjab, Gokulam FC  and Aizawl FC and signed by Minerva Punjab FC owner Rahul Bajaj.

The letter to FIFA president highlights how the top-tier status has been accorded to Indian Super League (ISL) by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as per the Master Right Agreement (MRA) signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance in 2010.

“Recent media reports and press statements from the AIFF itself have indicated that the AIFF is seeking to make the ISL, which came into existence in 2013, the senior-most league in the country, whereas I-League, that dates back to 2007 when it was launched as India’s first-ever professional football league is sought to be made into a second-tier and inferior league,” the clubs stated in the letter.

“There is a sharp decline in the standard of Indian football. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, including India, but this popularity has not been matched by necessary and good administration as far as the national body is concerned,” the letter read.

AIFF president Praful Patel had assured the I-League clubs –before the Executive committee meeting of AIFF– that their future was secure and said that AIFF he would approach the AFC to ensure that I-League continues to co-exist with the ISL for another 2-3 years. Praful Patel had spoken in terms of a ‘status quo’.

“The ISL is a purely commercial venture played by franchise-based clubs owned by the clubs. It has no relevance. More importantly, players invariably are in the 35-plus age bracket. Players who have no takers abroad are roped in, leading to a decline in the standard of Indian football.

ISL is just like the IPL of football and so the question that arises is how a purely commercial league can be made into the senior-most league of the country which has no international recognition or standing,” the clubs stated in their letter.

“Though IMG-R is to pay a fixed sum of money to AIFF every year, the MRA contemplates spending of this money to be subject to IMG-R’s approval in every aspect. The AIFF has effectively lost all control and is sub-servant to IMG-R which is unconstitutional,” reads the letter whilst outlining the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) signed between AIFF and IMG-R in 2010.

The letter by the clubs also illustrates how AIFF has kept the I-league clubs in the dark about the FIFA/AFC report/road map . “till date the detailed report has not been disclosed to the stake holders by AIFF or by AFC and this is in violation of the principles of natural justice to the stake holders as they have every right to know what the future of their clubs is in the present scenario,” reads a part of the letter.

The letter requested Infantino to set up an inquiry to probe the manner in which the AIFF is functioning.

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