AIFF will continue with plans to grant ISL higher status

PANAJI: The Football Federation of all India (AIFF) continues with its plans to grant the Indian Super League (ISL) a first-class league status and has requested the approval of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

According to sources, AIFF has written a formal letter to the AFC secretary general, Dato Windsor John, informing him about the new structure of the national competitions for the 2019-20 season. The new structure has ISL as the main league of India's national competitions this season with the champions of the league stage, not the final winners, ensuring a place in the high-profile AFC Champions League playoffs.

Unlike the past, there will be a lot at stake for teams that end up with the most points at the end of the league stage. The winners of the league will be rewarded with a place in the AFC Champions League play-off, while the semifinalists will fight only for the prize money of Rs 8 crore. A formal letter has already been sent to the AFC, said a senior official who has monitored the development.

India is eligible for two positions in continental championships. While so far I-League The winners obtained a direct entry in the AFC Champions League playoffs, they might have to settle for a place in the AFC Cup qualifiers. The AFC Cup is the competition of second-tier clubs in Asia, below the AFC Champions League. No Indian club has crossed the obstacle of the playoffs in the AFC Champions League. AIFF told AFC that a consultation process is needed to decide who plays in the AFC Cup qualifiers. President of AIFF ( Patel Orante ) had made this suggestion of I-League winners taking the second spot but there is no confirmation as of now, said the official.

AFC has not as yet responded to AIFF's proposal but with Fifa throwing its weight behind its member association- and keeping the AFC informed as well -federation officials remain confident that an approval is a mere formality. It's only a matter of days before AFC gives its stamp of approval, said the official. Six I-League clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers FC, Gokulam Kerala FC, Neroca FC and Minerva Punjab - had petitioned Fifa about the unfair treatment but with the governing body for world football backing the AIFF, clubs have been left staring at the worst.

We understand that the AIFF president has met the clubs and suggested a short-term solution until a more sustainable long-term solution can be found. We therefore strongly believe that the AIFF is best placed to do this and we are confident that a thorough and effective process can be managed by the AIFF in its role as the governing body for football in India, Fifa acting deputy secretary general Mattias Grafstrom wrote in a letter to I-League clubs on Wednesday.

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