The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee meeting for the first time in Vietnam today endorsed the roadmap for Indian football as a plan to grow the sport in the world’s second biggest country.
The endorsement comes shortly after the AFC held a summit in Kuala Lumpur on October 14 and involved representatives of both the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League as well as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance.
The roadmap for the reform process is for the club game in the country – with the ISL being recognised as the top league in India starting from this 2019-2020 season.
The ISL League winners would also be entitled to a play-off place in the AFC Champions League and the I-League champions would take a place in the AFC Cup in ‘a package that takes into consideration the recommendations of the FIFA/AFC report of 2017.’
The AFC Executive Committee, at their meeting in Da Nang, noted the impressive start for the ISL in Kochi on Friday where the TV audience doubled after the game was shown in seven languages on 20 channels across the nation.
Following the AFC Executive Committee decision, the roadmap includes:
• In season 2019-20, the ISL will attain the status of premiere league competition in Indian football.
• The AFC will allow the winning ISL club to represent India in the AFC Champions League play-offs, and the I-League winner will get to play in the AFC Cup play-off.
• Another key recommendation by the AFC is to open a pathway for two I-League clubs’ entry into the ISL by the end of the 2020-21 season, subject to the criteria being fulfilled.
• In addition, starting with the 2022-23 and 2023-2024 season, the winner of the I-League will stand a chance to be promoted to the ISL with no participation fee, basis fulfilling sporting merit and the national club licensing criteria to be set out by the AIFF. There will be no relegation in the ISL at this time.
• In its recommendation for 2024-25, it is agreed to fully implement promotion and relegation into the top league, and abolition of two parallel leagues.
The document will now be distributed to all stakeholders for their information and future reference.