IN A HISTORIC ANNOUNCEMENT, the AlFF have confirmed that Indian football is finally returning to an open league system.
A league system that has been in disarray since the Indian Super League, with its closed-door franchise system took the centre-stage in the domestic circuit is once again embracing the principles of merit and promotion-relegation after a prolonged battle between the I-League clubs, ISL organisers and the Federation.
Today the AIFF President Mr Kalyan Chaubey announced in a tweet that the I-League 2022-23 champions will be promoted to ISL by merit, ending months of speculation on whether this step would be implemented by AIFF & their commercial partners FSDL after all.
The decision finalises the implementation of the AFC-FIFA roadmap that was submitted by a team of experts sent by AFC & FIFA to help sort out the internal conflict that was dividing Indian football into multiple factions.
The roadmap, after being deliberated on by AIFF & FSDL for over a year during which I-League clubs even boycotted the Super Cup and threatened to sue the Federation, the roadmpa was finally put into effect on 14th October 2019 at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
You can get an exclusive inside look at the heated debates and exchanges that took place behind closed doors at this high level, historic meeting in our investigative report.
As per the AFC-FIFA roadmap, from this season onwards, the I-League champions will be promoted to ISL. They will pay no franchise fees and in return they will not receive any share of the central revenue pool of ISL. From 2025, when the ISL's 10 year franchise contracts run out, there will be full promotion-relegation.
This move is expected to boost Indian football by lowering the barrier for entry and the promise of merit being rewarded. Since the roadmap was adopted, the club death epidemic that had been plaguing Indian football for the last few years has stopped. And new clubs have also emerged from various corners of the country in the lower leagues, with the intention and capability of making it in the highest level.
I-League 2022-23 will begin on 12th November, and it's expected to be an exciting season with clubs jostling to be the first to earn a historic promotion to the Indian Super League.