Faced with the prospect of two teams shutting shop, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has convened a meeting of all I-League clubs in Mumbai on Friday to discuss a road map for the troubled national league whose future is in doubt.
AIFF president Praful Patel has called the meeting with the I-League owners even as there have been reports of two Pune based clubs Pune FC and Bharat FC, all set to shut down operations ahead of the next season.
Confirming the meeting, AIFF Vice-President and Indian Super League club FC Goa's co-owner Shrinivas Dempo told PTI that he favoured a merger between the two competing leagues leading to a longer combined tournament.
"I do not know what exactly they are going to discuss in the meeting, but I am of the opinion that there should not be a parallel league as it will do no good to football," said Dempo. "It's not easy to run two parallel leagues," he said, adding, "Going by past experience in the I-League, where teams like Mahindra United and JCT shut shop after incurring huge losses, it will be difficult to sustain those kinds of budgets and continue amid talks of two more clubs winding up. If AIFF thinks of a merger between the two, then the ISL should be played for a longer period as it will capture the attention of serious players and serious sponsors."
"ISL has been successful in the inaugural year (2014) and in spite of backing by corporates, all franchisees in the Indian Super League picked up huge losses. But things will change for the good after few years," he stated.
Dempo would attend tomorrow's meeting along with owners of the I-League clubs and organisers of the ISL. "A merger will be good for football in general. Whoever invests in this sport or product needs a sustainable model. The longer the league, the better it would be for sponsors.