“Let ISL be top league”, 35 of AIFF’s 36 states tell Supreme court

Asking federation to run apex league would violate 2010 agreement, states say after going through the draft constitution.

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“Let ISL be top league”, 35 of AIFF’s 36 states tell Supreme court

Asking federation to run apex league would violate 2010 agreement, states say after going through the draft constitution.

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All but one of the 36 states affiliated to All India Football Federation (AIFF) have written to the Supreme Court that they want the Indian Super League (ISL) to remain the country’s top league. Goa wants I-League to be the country’s foremost men’s competition.

For nearly 12 years no one raised an objection about ISL in the AIFF’s general body. How can we suddenly complain now? We don’t want to disrupt football further,” said the president of a state association, requesting anonymity given the matter is sub judice.

The states contend that asking AIFF to run the country’s apex men’s league, as reported in HT on Thursday and stated in the draft constitution submitted to Supreme Court on Friday, breaches the 15-year Master Rights Agreement (MRA) signed in 2010. Worth ₹50 crore annually now—it was ₹31 crore in the first year– that agreement is now between Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), a joint-venture of Reliance and Star, and AIFF. FSDL conducts ISL under the aegis of AIFF.

After meeting Indian stakeholders in October 2019, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) okayed ISL as India’s top league from 2019-20. In that meeting, a roadmap on structural reforms too was agreed upon by which I-League champions of 2022-23 would be eligible to play in ISL without paying franchise fees.

“Can AIFF pay if FSDL moves court and is awarded a hefty compensation? Also, the message this sends to potential commercial partners is that AIFF does not honour agreements,” said another state association official, who also did not want to be named.

ISL : Trophy | Sportz Point.
ISL Trophy (Image-Espn)

FSDL’s argument was that the “constitution should not be amended in a manner that could circumvent any prior commitments made by AIFF.”

That was rejected by the committee of administrators (CoA) that prepared the draft after consulting stakeholders, including FSDL. CoA states in the draft that since the MRA is a “temporary, time bound agreement capable of termination” it cannot be accepted in a constitution that is “intended to be an eternal and impartial document laying down neutral principles to ensure good governance of the sport for all time to come.”

Thus a permanent constitution cannot be subordinated to a temporary arrangement with a private entity,” the draft states. In addition, the draft, under the chapter Competitions, says that, “overall management and rule-making must be done by AIFF itself and it cannot be said to be in the interest of the sport for such foundational and essential elements of the sport to be entirely delegated to any private entity.” HT has a copy of the draft sent to the Supreme Court.

The draft also says commercial agreements lasting over four years and worth more than ₹1 crore must be approved by at least 75% of the members present and eligible to vote at an annual or special general meeting.In their objections to the draft constitution submitted to the Supreme Court, state associations have sought an SGM or AGM only for deals worth ₹10 crore and more.

According to the draft, an eminent player is one who has played one senior international, has been retired for at least two years and is not older than 66. In an earlier version, the number of internationals mentioned was 15. States had agreed to this but the draft sent to Fifa last Wednesday had pruned the requirement to five. States have told the apex court that only those who have played at least 15 senior India games should be considered eminent players.

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