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ISL to merge with I-League, says AIFF

Ending long standing speculation around the merger of the Indian Super League (ISL) with I -League, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday virtually recognised ISL as the country’s premier league as per a new road map which would have three more seven-month leagues in a hierarchical system from 2017.

ISL to merge with I-League-AV

In place of the Nehru Cup, the AIFF also plans to start a multi-country tournament from 2017 which would have teams ranked between 120 to 150 in FIFA’s world rankings chart.

As per its latest road map, the Super Cup, which was earlier played between the winner of I-League and Federation Cup, would 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, AIFF and its marketing partners IMG-Reliance on Tuesday presented a new road map under which the ISL would 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 broadcasters Star Sports was held on Tuesday.

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 road map created to restructure Indian football, a few traditional clubs raised concerns.

According to AIFF President Praful Patel, this is aimed at reducing “friction” between the ISL and the existing I-League, which would be rechristened League 1.

Speculation was rife that the ISL would merge with the 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.

Promotion and relegation would not be applicable to the ISL but Patel said there could be 10 to 12 teams participating in the event from next year onwards.

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