THE AIFF EX-COMM MEETING held at Delhi today saw a presentation of the proposal for merging I-League and ISL - aka the "restructuring of the Indian league system" - along with the various inputs and comments different clubs across divisions have sent on it.
When the presentation was unveiled to the stakeholders for the first time in May, and since then multiple clubs have voiced their concerns about it. The most vocal of them have been the Goan clubs, with two top division clubs Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa deciding to exit the I-League as a result of it. Dempo SC, owned by AIFF vice president Srinivas Dempo, may follow suit.
The executive committee members have been asked to come back with suggestions on how the re-structuring process can be made more smooth so that the existing I-League clubs can be better integrated into the new league system; with a deal that makes up for the forced relegation that most of them will have to go through.
This step taken by AIFF seems to have opened up a dialogue with everyone involved, and may pave the way for a long exchange between AIFF, IMG-Reliance and the clubs that gets the air of anxiety around the league merger process to get settled before the new top division, bearing the ISL name, launches in 2017-18.
In the meantime, this call for suggestions sets up the merger as an important topic of discussion in the next executive committee meeting, and probably a few after that.