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No plans to end I-League: Praful Patel

All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel on Wednesday said that he will approach the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to ensure the I-League continues to co-exist with the Indian Super League (ISL) for another two-three years, but added that the arrangement can only be temporary.

"We don't want to pack up the I-League. It should continue. But ultimately there should be a roadmap of Indian football. Two leagues cannot go on permanently. The AFC will also not allow it forever. It is just a solution for the time being," Patel said after a meeting with representatives of the I-League clubs in New Delhi.

ESPN understands three issues in particular were discussed in the meeting.

One topic was the broadcast rights of the I-League, which had come in for criticism by the clubs last season. Patel apparently asked if the clubs were willing to share half the costs of production to which the clubs asked whether revenues could be shared should an alternate broadcaster be found.

Patel also offered to share a three-year schedule for the footballing calendar. One bone of contention, though, was the status of the AFC Champions league spot.

With the AIFF chief saying he needed a conclusive statement to present to the AIFF Executive committee meeting on July 9th, It is learnt that the I-League clubs are expected to send their response to Patel's proposals on Thursday morning.

ESPN also understands that the clubs asked for Patel to provide the proposals in writing. 

Patel said he will seek the AFC's approval for the current status quo to be maintained for the another 2-3 years, by which time he hopes all the stakeholders will reach to a consensus. That will be done only after consultation with FSDL..

"There is a historical issue with Indian football, within that framework. I feel a reasonable two to three years window should be given for I-League also to be continuing. I cannot give you any assurance yet because I have to talk to the AFC. AFC also have to agree to what I am saying. It may be our wish but AFC will have to agree. Our commercial partners have to be consulted. At the end of the day, there are costs involved," he said.

"There are also rights which they (FSDL) got through the Master Right Agreement which we had signed many years ago. Within that framework, which is three years, I feel that the I-League also must co-exist with the fullest recognition of the AFC so that it is an AFC product," Patel said.

"It should not be something which is not recognised by the AFC. So the clubs in I-League must also not get lost in the upward movement. These are just suggestions which we will try to talk to all the stakeholders," he said.

(with inputs from PTI)

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