The I-League committee met on Wednesday in New Delhi to discuss and finalise the upcoming 2010/11 season. And there were a number of issues to be discussed, be it the number of teams taking part, the dates of the I-League and the AFC Club licensing criteria. A lot of uncertainly has been killed through the results of the meeting though there are still rumours making the rounds that Mumbai FC and Viva Kerala could be pulling their teams out as still no players have been signed.
The 2010/11 I-League would be played with 14 teams and would not be expanded to 16 teams. This means that the slim hopes of Sporting Clube de Goa, Shillong Lajong FC, Vasco SC and Mohammedan Sporting Club to stay in the league or move up have been dashed by the AIFF and I-League committee. ONGC and HAL will now remain the two promoted sides, while the AIFF Under-19 XI based in Delhi will replace the now defunct Mahindra United in the 14 team league.
The AIFF also decided against expanding the league to 16 teams due to the fact that the season will miss about 10 weeks this year due to international commitments plus the league's expansion would cost the federation an extra of around Rs. 2 crores. A difficulty in times of unsure income.
The calendar has been the other main issue. And the league is set to kickoff in the third week of November 2010.
With 30 players taken out of the system due to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup preparations and the 2010 Asian Games to be held in November in Guangzhou, China would mean another 23 players would be taken out of the system that would have been too much on the big sides plus also the AIFF Under-19 XI to play in the league.
Also there is the issue of venues. The Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi will not be available until mid-October due to the Commonwealth Games. And then there is the India vs Australia One-Day International Cricket series. The Nehru Stadium, Goa and the Nehru Stadium, Kochi will both host matches from the series which mean that they wouldn't be available to football for weeks.
Also before the start of the I-League all 'A' level tournaments would be held to allow the league time to finish by May 2011. This means that the Federation Cup, Durand Cup, IFA Shield and some of the local leagues would be held in the coming weeks and month's.
AFC Club licensing criteria
The AFC will send a team to assess I-League clubs on fulfilling the AFC Club licensing criteria to India from October 23 to November 1. A workshop for all I-League clubs would be held on November 2.
The I-League committee has also set December 31 as the deadline for all the clubs for fulfilling the AFC Club licensing criteria.