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FULL TEXT -- Six Rebel I-League clubs write to Prime Minister seeking intervention against AIFF

THE REBEL ALLIANCE OF six I-League clubs have written a letter to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, seeking intervention against AIFF's efforts to forcefully relegate independent clubs and sideline major national competitions in favour of ISL.

The clubs' officials met AIFF President Praful Patel where Mr Patel proposed an "interim solution" to Indian football's I-League/ISL dual league problem that included unilaterally declaring ISL as the new top league and relegating all current top division clubs.

A day later, six I-League clubs including East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Churchill Brothers FC wrote to AIFF refusing to agree to being unfairly pushed down to a lower tier.

The AIFF's Executive Committee, which meets on Tuesday, July 9th, is expected to disregard the clubs' protest and unilaterally declare ISL as the new top league.

The clubs' letter, coming the evening before that meeting, seems like an attempt to attract the attention of not only the Govt of India but also the media and the fans towards this matter, as there is concern that AIFF has deliberately timed this meeting to coincide with a Cricket World Cup semi-final match to ensure there is minimal media coverage of this event.

Here's the full text of the letter, retrieved via OCR from the scanned copies released to the media by the clubs in question.

"Respected sir,

The present representation is brought by si Hesue clubs, le, Mohun Bagan AC Kolkata and Quess East Bengal FC, Araw FC Churchill Brothers SC Goa, Gokulam Kerala FC, Minerva Punjab FC.

1. As you are aware, 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, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is concerned.

2. More than 35 major all India football tournaments, such as Federation Cup. Durand Cup, Rovers Cup, IFA Shield have been stopped. A large number of major clubs like JCT Mills (Phagwara), Mahindra United (Mumbai), Dempo SC, Salgaocar SC, Sporting Clube De Goa (Goan Clubs) and Rangdajied United FC (Meghalaya) have either withdrawn from League Football or shut their clubs completely. 

3. There is a sharp decline in the standards of Indian football. With very little football activity many domestic tournaments having been cancelled by the AFF as well as due to the withdrawal of domestic clubs from league due to no future of the League and no proper roadmapl. the national pool of players is considerably reduced leading to little or no choice in selecting the national team for major international events, Inspite of such a huge population of our country.

4. AIFF was founded in 1937. The objectives of the AIFF, as per its Constitution include improvement and popularization of the game of football and its promotion throughout India, carticularly through youth development programmes. ASF is affiliated to the Asian Football Confederation thereinafter "AFC") since 1954 and the Federation Internationale de Football Association thereinafter "FIFA) since 1948, therefore AIFF is bound by FIFA statutes/rules/regulations/codes and the AFC regulations as laid down from time to time.

5. As of now, the premier league of India is the League and then there is 'Indian Super League' running parallel. The I-League is the top division football league in the country, wherein clubs adhere to strict AIFF dub licensing regulations which are based on FIFA club licensing regulations. Furthermore, the Heague clubs follow the system of promotion and relegation as per FIFA regulations. Whereas, the Indian Super League is a franchise-based league that does not follow the FIFA principles of promotion and relegation'. It is pertinent to mention here that though christened 'Indian Super League', it was merely a tournament, to begin with, and now it is national knockout competition.

6. A country as large as India cannot run on one football tournament. But that is exactly what the AIFF plans to do. And that too run only the Indian Super League as the Major League at the cost of the more than two-decade-old League (Earlier called as the National Football League).

7. Recent Media reports and press statements from the AIFF itself have indicated that the All India Football Federation ('AIFF") is seeking to make the ISL, which came to existence in October 2013, the senior most league in the country, whereas Heague, that dates back to 2007 when it was launched as India's first ever professional football league and has been the top-tier league in India ever since Since 1996, the top-tier League was known as National Football League, which was re-launched and re-branded as League in 20071, is sought to be made into a second-tier and inferior league.

8. The ISL is a purely commercial venture played by franchisee-based clubs owned by the rich. It has no relevance to Indian soccer. More importantly, players invariably are in the 35-plus age bracket. Players who have no takers abroad are roped leading to a decline in standards of Indian Football. ISL is just like IPL of cricket and so the question arises that how can a purely commercial league be made into the senior-most league of the country which has no international recognition or standing. It is a closed leave which has no promotion or relegation.

9. The AFC and FIFA have termed the league as the No. 1 league in India and even the AIFF has repeatedly termed it so in press conferences and statements. But now, the AIFF wants to dump the League and host the ISL as the only Major League.

10. All clubs in India have to hold a license under the Indian Club Licensing Regulations to be able to
participate in national and international leagues/tournaments/cups and the licenses are issued by the AFF in the 1st division and and division. Earlier, was only the 1st division l-league winners and the Federation Cup winners that went on to play the AFC Cup/tournament the said team wins the AFC Cup/tournament, it proceeds to participate in the FIFA tournament This procedure is in consonance with internationally accepted method for participation in national and international tournaments/cups/leagues as put in place by FIFA for all its affiliate associations/confederations and their affiliate/member clubs. But in 2016, by discontinuine Federation Cup (which was played by the League clubs, since being founded in 1977 and was the official knock-out cup) one slot of the AFC Cup has already been given to the ISL clubs which do not even follow the rules of promotion and releration and AIFF intends to take the slot of AFC Championship also and give it to SL by making it the senior most league in India.

11. Recently, a document has been made public which reveals that AFF has entered into a Master Rights Agreement (MRA) dated 2010 with IMG-R which affects the rights if League clubs as it has been contemplated therein that the new league le, ISL) will be made the senior most league in India and further that l-league may be rebranded or even permanently discontinued. The MRA is guised as a commercial rights agreement but in fact the entire control of AIFF over Indian football has been handed over by AIFF to IMG-R, private business entity. This is something which was kept tightly under wraps since 2010 but has now come into public knowledge which confirms all the apprehensions around the MRA which were mere contemplations to the public before this.

12. The MRA, though is shown as a commercial rights agreement, contemplates setting up 'a new league' which is to be controlled by IMG-R in all aspects. A perusal of the MRA goes to show how the AIFF has effectively handed over all of the control of Indian football to IMG-R which makes every financial decision of AIFF also subject to approval by IMG-R. It gives IMG-R the right to control/rebrand/ discontinue all existing tournaments and leagues and has also given birth to ISL (the contemplated new league' in the MRA) which was always intended to be a purely commercial league for profits to IMG-R).

13. 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.

14. It is purely for the commercial interests of a private company that the AIFF intend to banish and make irrelevant the existing Heague clubs that include age-old clubs like Mohun Bagan AC (Kolkata). Quess East Bengal (Kolkata) and Churchill Brothers FC (Goa) without bothering to even consider their vast wonderful contribution to Indian football over the last 60 to 100 years or even more, Aizawl FC, that has fought its way on sporting merit from the 2nd division to the 1st with determination, persistence and hard work has been completely let down. Gokulam FC and Minerva Puniab FC that came through the bidding the route were misled into entering into the League in as much as the AIFF had, by entering into the MRA in 2010, decided on reducing the League to a 2nd tier league with the ability to only play nationally or even to stop the Heague completely even before these clubs were induced into joining the league and were made to make huge investments.

15. AIFF is enabling IMG-R to stop all established tournaments and leagues keeping their commercial
Interests in mind and to control the whole sport for their own benefit at the cost of any prestige value of the sport to the nation. Furthermore, the AIFF has declared that due to the commercial  obligations with clubs of the ISL, there will be no promotion or relegation and all clubs therein will enjoy relegation holiday. In recent years, the AIFF and IMG-R have jointly, citing monetary and time constraints decided to discontinue other national tournaments.

16. It is pertinent to note that it is the I-League clubs that have been working selflessly from grass
root levels and have produced professional players over the decades and now the AIFF wants to shun these clubs completely which will lead to further degrading of quality of players in India as the future of Indian football is being handed out as a purely commercial business entity and the AIFF is failing miserably in fulfilling their constitutional duties and obligations.

17. It is pertinent to note here that the promotion of a commercial league, i.e., ISL, as the topmost
league in India is a pure conflict of interest of IMG Reliance, as well, who, as per the MRA has contemplated to be responsible for the development of football in India but has ended up commercializing the sport entirely, by reducing the status of the national I-League to a secondtier league and not working towards the development of the national league and promoting football at the grass root levels, rather, the commercial business group is directed and guided entirely by monetary benefits. That, the AIFF and IMG Reliance are hand in love with each other and have no concern for the quality of the sport which is deteriorating.

18. It is also relevant to mention here that this collaboration between AIFF and IMG-R is also in
violation of FIFA Statutes as the AIFF at this point is clearly subordinate to IMG-R, and this jeopardires the integrity of the AIFF. Further, press articles reporting the deal with IMG-Reliance and the comments of IMG-Reliance officials, whereby the business group is openly announcing its control over football in India and stating that the AIFF is co-operating and participating is self-explanatory as to who is in-charge and who is the subordinate. The AIFF has rolled into the hands of a business group for monetary gains, without an lota of thought to the implications and the consequences of giving up control over the football to a business group, which is not in the interest of sport or public policy.

19. That, instead of working on making the national League, ie, the league better and working in
the interest of developing the sport of football in India, the AIFF and the business groups have brought it down to a business deal to suit personal financial interests, with no consideration for the existing clubs who have invested crores of rupees in the last few decades to promote the sport of football and to work from grassroots levels upwards.

20. This country's reputation internationally in the sport of football, which has a great fan following in India as well as abroad is in jeopardy and the AIFF cannot act arbitrarily, with malafide intent incomplete colorable exercise of power which ought to be checked.

21. That, the League, I.e., the national League of India has little or no future left in the present
scenario where the AIFF is doing nothing to protect the interest of the sport, the players or decades old clubs (as well as new. Rather, the AIFF has diverted its entire effort to promote the Indian Super League, purely for financial considerations. It is also relevant to mention here that the decision of the AIFF to scrap off the Federation Cuple, the national knockout championship in existence since 1977, was the most arbitrary decision. That, the AIFF putting the league in the same situation due to its actions and inactions and ultimately the Heague will burn out, considering there is no road map in place for the future of the league. All the focus is only on ISL which has the prime TV and media coverage, the best playing season in India and there is a serious shortage of dedication of funds to the league. That these factors had already led to several clubs pulling out of the league and now more clubs may be pushed to the same fate.

22. There are many other serious issues which need to be looked into. When the Justice Lodha Commission was set up by the honourable Supreme Court, the central government had said that such commissions could be set up and the functioning of other federations should be looked into, Football was specially mentioned due to various controversies arising in the game.

23. Respected Sir, our country sincerely looks upto you for your able guidance and Your Vision for younger India especially Sports By Introducing Khelo India and many more Initiatives that your Government has been taking to make our country achieve much More not just in sports but in every sector. We truly appreciate and are privileged to Have a Prime Minister like you who is Sincerely working very hard towards Building a Better and a promising India.

Please find the attached copy of Master Right Agreement for your kind perusal(Annexure A-1).

Hence, we have no choice but to knock on your doors and seek justice. We request you to kindly look into the matter and set up an enquiry commission to probe the manner in which the AIFFS functioning. We hope you will intervene and save Indian football, traditional clubs and all league Clubs which have built a proper ecosystem to nurture young talent as future stars for Indian Football. We will provide any further information and documents to you as you may require.

Thanking you
Yours Sincerely..."

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