The All India Football Federation on Monday said the I-League clubs were drawing conclusions prematurely about the Indian Super League (ISL) being made the top league of the country, adding they pulled out of the Super Cup despite assurances that president Praful Patel would meet them.
"It is very premature and unnecessary to pre-judge any action of the AIFF, and be commenting on the AIFF Executive Committee meeting on July 3, 2019 in advance.
The AIFF as a custodian of Indian Football has always endeavoured to balance to the interest of all stakeholders, and the Hero I-League, and its clubs. To say that the future of Hero I-League, and the clubs will not be taken into consideration for any future decisions of the AIFF would be unfair," the AIFF said in a statement.
AIFF said FIFA and AFC will be considered before taking a decision on making ISL the top league.
"As a matter of fact, a decision regarding the Hero Indian Super League becoming a league were also discussed with AFC, and FIFA before it was given recognition, and even for any future decisions AFC and FIFA will be duly consulted. In fact, during the last AFC AGM in Paris, the AIFF asked the AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John to visit India specifically for Hero I-League issues.
"Furthermore, while the decision of the AIFF Executive Committee cannot be per-judged, it must also be borne in mind that AIFF has already spoken to its commercial partners FSDL about the concerns of the Hero I-League clubs."
Miffed at the "step-motherly" treatment meted out to them by the All India Football Federation, I-League clubs on Monday threatened to move court if the Indian Super League (ISL) is announced as the top tier of the Indian club football.
The AIFF has called for a meeting of its Executive Committee on July 3 and according to reports, the ISL will be made the top tier league officially in that meeting, thus ending the longstanding impasse.
The AIFF had signed a Master Rights of Agreement with its commercial partners Football Sports Development Limited, a subsidiary of IMG Reliance, in 2010 which had stated that a new league (ISL) could be made the top division of Indian football and that the I-League could be reconstituted, replaced and/or discontinued (temporarily or permanently).
The clubs -- East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC, NEROCA and Gokulam Kerala -- met at a plush hotel here, to decide on the next course of action.
The protesting clubs were also angry at Patel not meeting them to address their queries despite repeated calls.
"It is surprising that the clubs have accused the AIFF President about not giving them any audience for their grievances. In fact, the only time they sought an audience was before the commencement of Hero Super Cup, where they were duly informed that the AIFF President will meet them any day between April 10-14, 2019, as the President had prior commitments for the FIFA Council Election on April 6 in Kuala Lumpur, as well as the Lok Sabha general elections.
"Despite the assurance, the clubs did not meet the President, and rather pre-maturely pulled out of the Hero Super Cup, causing huge financial losses and negativity for a tournament for they had confirmed their participation. It must be mentioned that post pulling out of the Hero Super Cup, no appointment has so far been sought by the Clubs.
As a custodian of Indian Football, the AIFF and the President are always happy to engage with all stakeholders including I-league Clubs for the betterment of Indian Football," the statement read.
"Needless to say some club owners have taken to a vicious and malicious social media campaign against the AIFF and its President. We would like to caution the clubs to refrain from unnecessary accusations, and advice them to engage meaningfully for the betterment of Indian Football," it added hinting to Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj's series of tweets against the parent body.
Officials from NEROCA and Aizawl FC were absent in the meeting but said in a letter that they also stand united the fight, a source said.
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