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I-League and ISL may merge as AIFF plans shake-up in Indian football


New Delhi: With two Pune-based clubs’ likely to pull out of the I-League, the All India Football Federation on Saturday said that there would be a shake-up in the sport in the country and the roadmap ahead is to have just one league in near future.

The I-League clubs have come under severe pressure with losses incurring each year without any viable revenue-sharing model with the AIFF even as Indian Super League was accorded a huge reception by the football fans of the country in its inaugural edition last year itself.

It is learnt that Pune FC and Bharat FC which made their I-League debut last season are on the verge of shutting down their first team operations. They are also mulling to merge to a single team from the small city of Pune where the fan-base has been split with a third team Pune City playing in the eight-team ISL.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said today that the country will have just one league in two or three years’ time.

“We have a roadmap which is to have one league within two-three years. But we have to chalk it out on how to go about it. There will be a shake-up in Indian football. There has not been any impact so far but it will happen in future and we have to sort this out,” Das said on the sidelines of Mohun Bagan’s 125th year celebration at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

“More or less all the teams — ISL clubs and I-League clubs and IMG Reliance — are of the opinion to have one league,” he added.

Das said the I-league, which will begin in January next year after the ISL gets over, was not under threat.

“I don’t think that will happen as nobody other than the two clubs have expressed their intention…” He said that AIFF president Praful Patel will meet representatives of Bharat FC and Pune FC to discuss the way ahead.

“They are yet to inform us officially but (president) Mr Patel has said that he will meet the two clubs. Yes, there’s a bit of problem because with three clubs in Pune they are facing difficulties to create the fan base,” said Das.
Having learnt a bitter lesson from the Pune experience, the AIFF is keen to not have a second team from Bengaluru.

“The bid is already open and we will not take another team from Bengaluru as we already have BFC there. When BFC came into existence we had already made it clear there would not be another team in near future as per the contractual obligation,” he said.


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