AIFF to scrap I-League from 2017, ISL to be India's premier league
New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday announced a three-tier football structure, headed by a revamped Indian Super League (ISL), to be implemented from the 2017-18 season in a major overhaul of the game's domestic setup.
The top tier league in the new structure will be constituted of 10 or 12 teams. There will be no relegation from the ISL.
The ISL will be followed by a first division named League 1 and a second division called League 2. Both will have relegation and promotion. Both the divisions will have 10 teams each.
Chennaiyin FC players celebrate with the winning trophy after defeating FC Goa by 3-2 in the finals of the 2nd edition of the ISL
A final decision on the number of teams to be included in the ISL will be decided later. All the eight existing franchises will participate in the top tier league.
AIFF president Praful Patel said the rejig is aimed at reducing the "friction" between the ISL and the existing I-League.
The tenders for the additional teams will be invited later. An unspecified number of teams from the I-League may be incorporated in the ISL, though nothing has been decided as yet.
There was also no confirmation that Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and I-League champions Bengaluru FC may be included in the revamped ISL.
The 2017-18 ISL will take place from November to March 2018, instead of its usual October to December period as the Under-17 World Cup will take place in October.
The ISL will be held in a seven-month period from September to March from the 2018-19 season.
The AIFF and its marketing partners invited 29 clubs, including nine from the I-League and eight ISL franchises, to discuss the merger of the two leagues here on Tuesday.
The League 1 and 2 will run parallel to the ISL, for a period of five months in the 2017-18 season and seven months thereafter.
All the participating clubs will have to fulfill the Club Licensing Criteria as per the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) guidelines.
The financial revenue obtained by the AIFF from the three-tier structure will be shared among all the clubs.
The matches of the three leagues will be broadcasted by AIFF's TV and commercial partners.
AIFF will also rename the Federation Cup to Super Cup from the 2018-19 season onwards.
The re-christened tournament will be contested by 16 teams from all three leagues -- eight among them will be from the ISL, four from League 1. The remaining four spots will be filled up by play-offs between the remaining teams of the two lower leagues.
The Super Cup will be a two-month competition. Teams vying to play in the continental AFC Cup will have to go through the Super Cup.
The AIFF will also replace the defunct Nehru Cup with the Champions Cup from 2018 with India participating against teams ranked between 120-150. It is likely to be held annually in August.
The parent body has targetted to improve India's global ranking to 120 by December 2017.
A women’s league will also operate parallely to the three leagues with the aim of helping the national team qualify for the 2019 FIFA World Cup.