Six I-League clubs, including new champions Chennai City FC, on Wednesday expressed their willingness to compete in the Super Cup if the national federation addresses their concerns about the impending restructuring of the domestic football leagues.
Several clubs are worried that the I-League may be relegated to the second tier in the domestic restructuring this coming season on the direction of the Asian Football Confederation.
These clubs have sought a meeting with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel to discuss the issues concerning them.
Some of them, including former champions Minerva Punjab and Aizawl FC as well as Gokulam Kerala, did not turn up in the qualifying round of the Super Cup in Bhubaneswar.
The AIFF, through General Secretary Kushal Das, sought confirmation from six I-League clubs—East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Neroca, Churchill Brothers, Real Kashmir FC and Chennai City FC—on whether they will take part in the Super Cup main tournament which begins on March 29 in Bhubaneswar. These six clubs were directly seeded into Round of 16 stage of the Super Cup.
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Three of these and three other I-League clubs—Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala—responded in a letter, asking AIFF to hear out their concerns first. East Bengal, Neroca and Real Kashmir did not sign the letter.
"While we are keen to participate in the Super Cup, a discussion about the future of the I-League is equally important. We look forward to your confirmation to our meeting which will help us confirm our participation.
"We request for a confirmed time with the president of our federation for a discussion on a subject which is central to the existence of the I-League and member clubs," the clubs said in a letter to Das.
The AIFF is yet to state clearly whether Minerva, Aizawl and Gokulam will forfeit their qualifying round matches on March 15 and 16 but the letter suggested a fresh start of the qualifying round.
"All the undersigned clubs... are eager to play the Super Cup from the qualifying round," the six clubs said.
The letter also called for the creation of a 20-team unified league, to be called the Indian Football League, comprising clubs from the I-League, Indian Super League and I-League second division.
"...we are looking for a meeting with Mr Praful Patel to address the concerns of the I-League clubs including the creation of a unified league composed of ISL, I-League and clubs from the second division," the letter said.
The proposed league will be played for nine months, from September to May, with two teams to be relegated and two promoted from the lower division. These suggestions were sent to the AIFF along with the letter.
Under the proposed plan, the players will be given approximately 40 matches and all the games will be telecast live. The marketing of the league is to be done centrally.
The I-League clubs also offered a financial model of the proposed unified league for which each team will pay Rs 2 crore participation fee to AIFF/FSDL and no other franchisee/participation fee. They predicted a total sponsorship revenue of Rs 325 crore.
"At present, ISL clubs are paying franchise fee of Rs 13-18 crores and receiving Rs 8-12 crores from the central pool. FSDL effectively raised net Rs 150 crores by marketing the 95 games in the season.
"The proposed 20 team revamped League, would have 380 matches. (4X the current number). We can take a conservative/practical approach and generate a total net sponsorship revenue to the tune of INR 325 crores," the clubs said.
The clubs said this revenue can be distributed among 20 clubs (Rs 12 crores each), 16 second division clubs (Rs 2 crore each), central pool amount to AIFF (Rs 50 crore) and parachute payment to two relegated teams (Rs 2 crore each).
"The additional funds available with the clubs would help them to fulfil various AFC club licensing criteria in its true spirit. Mandatory 10 per cent of team budget to be spent on youth development in line with AFC Club Licensing Criteria."