I-League set for a big structural change from next year

New Delhi: The three-year old I-League is set for a big structural change with the AIFF deciding to shut doors on the clubs who fail to conform to professional criteria while also bringing in franchisee teams from next year.

I-League chief executive Sunando Dhar, speaking at a football panel discussion today, said no team, however big its reputation might be, will not be allowed to take part from 2011-12 season if they do not comply with the AFC professional criteria.

"If the clubs don`t conform to AFC criteria till December 31 this year, sorry they will not be allowed to play in I-League from next season (2011-12). The message is please shape up or else shut shop. AIFF President Praful Patel and AFC chief Mohammad bin Hammam is serious about this," Dhar said during a panel discussion on `The case of football in a cricket crazy nation`.

Dhar was non-committal about any IPL-style football league but said new corporate franchisee teams would feature from 2011-12 onwards and AIFF would ask them to earmark a specific amount of money for infrastructural development like building of stadium.

"We are in talks with some big industrial houses and from 2011-12 season we are adding some franchisee teams. We can`t blindly copy IPL. But the new franchisees will have separate criteria. They will be asked to have minimum amount of money for infrastructure development like building a stadium and investing in youth development," he said.

AIFF General Secretary Alberto Colaco conceded that the I-League has a long way to be fully professionalised and said it is up for some big changes from next year.

"I-League was launched in 2007. Despite our efforts it is still not fully professional. FIFA evaluators will decide after the deadline of December 31 this year whether the clubs have conformed to AFC professional criteria and those who failed to do so will be dropped from 2011-12 season," he said.

"We in India are very reluctant on change. There are clubs in India which think they are more than 50-years old and so why should they change. But we have to make a beginning. I hope the new initiatives will make significant changes in Indian football," he added.


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