New Delhi: Ending speculation around the merger of Indian Super League with I-League, the AIFF today virtually recognised ISL as the country's premier league as per a new roadmap, which will have three more seven-month leagues in a hierarchical system from 2017 onwards.
In place of Nehru Cup, the AIFF also plans to start a multi-country tournament from 2017 in which teams ranked between 120 to 150 in the FIFA chart will be invited to participate.
As per its latest roadmap, the Super Cup, which was earlier played between the winner of I-League and Federation Cup, will be a two-month affair played by the best teams from ISL, League 1 and League 2 from March 2018. Teams vying to play in the continental AFC Cup will have to go through Super Cup.
Aiming to restructure Indian football, the AIFF and its marketing partners IMG-Reliance today presented a new roadmap under which the ISL will be the country's top league followed by League 1, 2 and 3 that will start from November 2017.
A meeting attended by officials from AIFF, ISL, I-League, I-League 2, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) and official broadcaster Star Sports was held today. Well-known Indian players such as former captain Bhaichung Bhutia and current star Sunil Chhetri were also present.
While the majority sounded positive about the new roadmap created to restructure Indian football, a few traditional clubs raised concerns.
According to All India Football Federation president Praful Patel, this is aimed at reducing the "friction" between the ISL and the existing I-League, which will be rechristened League 1.
Speculation was rife that the ISL would merge with I-League and become a single entity but when asked about the sudden change in their stance, Patel said they were only trying to have different tiers, and not separate leagues, to have a wider pool of talent.
The AIFF's objective is to create a "sustainable ecosystem" for clubs.