Proposing a “temporary short-term bridging solution” to the year-long impasse, AFC has approved that ISL will be played alongside I-League in 2017 and 2018. Additionally, the Fed Cup winners will play AFC Cup preliminary stages, while I-League winners will play in the AFC Champions League Playoff.
The recommendation was made by the sport’s governing body All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) and Asian Football Confederation has wasted no time in giving it a green light, not before terming as ‘temporary short-term bridging solution”.
The gridlock has been there for over a year now since the AFC and IMG-Reliance had first come up with the idea of merging the ISL and the I-League to form a unified league. The last meeting took place back in June last month that saw officials from all the bodies- AFC, FIFA, AIFF, IMG-Reliance, Indian Super League (ISL) franchises, I-League clubs and the sports ministry- gathering in Kuala Lumpur, only to fail in reaching an agreement.
With the Under-17 World Cup coming up fast, the AFC had then suggested for a long-term plan with the next meeting to be held this month(July). After the meeting was held, the statement read, “Following a recommendation from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Competitions Committee gave special dispensation for the Indian Super League (ISL) which will be played simultaneously with the I-League for six or seven months in 2017 and 2018 as a temporary short-term ‘bridging solution’.”
It also released that AIFF had recommended that Federation Cup would be replaced by ISL with the winner of the national level football tournament’s winner getting to directly compete in the AFC Cup’s preliminary stages. Hence, the AFC Committee approved of the I-League winner to hold a place in the AFC Champions League Playoff.
“AIFF’s recommendation to the AFC was that the ISL will replace the Federation Cup, whose winner is currently allocated an AFC Cup preliminary stage place,” the statement said.
The Indian Super League winner, hence, would get a spot in the AFC Cup preliminary stages as long as the sides
“Therefore, the Committee approved that the I-League champions will play in the AFC Champions League Play-off round and the ISL Champions will play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage – as long as all clubs adhere to the AFC rules and regulations, particularly club licensing, from 2018.”
The statement further said, “The situation will be reviewed on a yearly basis with conditions which, in addition to adherence to club licensing regulations, include promotion, production, a player allocation system and the following of the Road Map agreed between the AFC and Indian football stakeholders at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on June 7, 2017.”
It was earlier decided that both the tournaments could be held concurrently allowing a few I-league clubs to even participate in ISL. Among the interested sides remained Bengaluru FC, Mohun