I-League clubs would certainly be given the first preference when it comes to expanding the number of teams in the Indian Super League (ISL).
With the number of teams in the Indian Super League (ISL) set to go up from 2017-18 season, there will be a tendering process and an eligibility criterion which needs to be taken into account before a final decision on how make the cut is arrived upon.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) assured that should an I-League or Division Two team fulfill the set norms, they would certainly get a look in. However, they were quick to add that neither do they expect every I-League or Division Two team to meet the criterion which would also take into account the financial aspect.
The Indian FA, along with their commercial and marketing partners in IMG-Reliance, are on the lookout for potential partners/owners who could add the financial muscle to some of the legacy-based supporter clubs in order for them to be a part of the cash-rich league.
There have been talks between officials from Atletico de Kolkata and Mohun Bagan for the last seven-to-eight months but the Green and Maroon brigade demanded a hefty sum which saw the ISL franchise drop their interest for now.
Meanwhile, East Bengal are already in talks with a couple of corporates who could aid them financially to be a part of the country’s top division. Bengaluru FC, who are backed by JSW Group, have already spoken of their intention to be a part of the league which becomes the premier competition of the country, namely the ISL.
It has also been reliably learnt that the Essel Group-backed Mumbai FC are keen to join the ISL bandwagon – either as a standalone team, an idea which looks unlikely to see the light of the day or possibly join hands with the existing Mumbai City FC, owned by Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh.
With DSK Shivajians having agreed that they wouldn’t be taken into consideration when the merger happens, they are automatically out of the equation.
Shillong Lajong were one of the first I-League clubs to be associated with the ISL, through a unique co-ownership of the northeastern franchise NorthEast United. Sources from the club have told Goal that they plan to focus more on youth and infrastructural development. They had sold their stake in the franchise at the beginning of last season and ended all associations with the ISL.
The only concern for the AIFF is how to integrate the likes of Peter Vaz-owned Sporting Clube de Goa, who have a history of over 15 years, and Shivanand Salgaocar’s Salgaocar FC, who recently celebrated their 60 years of existence.
Although Shivanand’s brother, Dattaraj Salgaocar is already part of the ISL as the co-owner of FC Goa, it remains unlikely that the two brothers work together given that they were involved in a court battle over separation of their group’s assets in the recent past.
– Rahul Bali