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I-League 2017-18: 3 clubs vie for direct entry in 2nd round of bids

THE RE-BIDDING PROCESS for new corporate clubs in I-League 2017-18 has yielded three fruits. AIFF has received 3 bids for direct entry clubs in the top division.

There may be up to 3 new clubs in this season of the I-League. The final decision will be taken by the AIFF Technical Committee on 15th September. The league begins in November.

Among the 3 bids are two obvious contenders: Gokulam FC from Malappuram and Ozone FC from Bengaluru. A third bid has arrived from Rajasthan.

Ozone FC have been active in football for a while, first as an academy and then as a club in the 2nd Division League. They are based out of the Bangalore Football Stadium. Gokulam FC, meanwhile, are a hot prospect, due to their home ground being the Manjeri Stadium. The area they are playing out of is at the heart of football crazy Kerala. The last time they hosted the Federation Cup, every match was a sellout despite there being no local team in contention.

It's these two who are likely to get a nod from AIFF, as they hold the most potential for drawing more eyeballs into the league. The third new entry spot is likely to go to the revived Arrows team based out of Delhi which will feature players from India's U-17 (World Cup Squad) and U-19 teams. 

The first round of bids produced a dud because the regulations it imposed on prospective clubs was passed by none of the bidders. The second round of bids relazed some of those stipulations to get a positive response from the bidders.

The AIFF faced a similar problem ahead of last season as well when multiple bids failed. Due to I-League's future being uncertain with the ISL set to replace it as the country's top division league in the future, not many want to invest in the existing top flight league. Last season clubs like Minerva Punjab and Chennai City FC got a confirmation of their participation in the I-League just 10 days before the league began. This time, with the U-17 World Cup around the corner, AIFF want to get done with that process well in time, and make up for the deficit left by DSK Shivajians' withdrawal and Bengaluru FC's switching to the ISL.

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