animesh bhattacharyya
KOLKATA, 28 JUNE: The tussle between the All India Football Federation  and the I-League Professional Football Clubs Association, each trying to arm-twist the other over I-League format changes and hosting an Indian   Premier League-style football competition, may well be coming to an end.
Mr Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta, assistant secretary of East Bengal (in photo), attributes this likely change to each side recognising that the muscle-flexing was harming the game.
“There was a consensus among those present at the meeting (held in New Delhi on 26 June) that a mutually beneficial solution should be arrived at quickly.
The stalemate between us (IPFCA) and the AIFF would not have helped the game. Whatever we do must be for its betterment," Mr Dasgupta said.
Incidentally, the AIFF is likely to revert to the home-and-away format for the I-League instead of the conference model it was hoping to implement for the upcoming season.
Under the conference model, inspired from USA’s Major League Soccer, the teams would have been divided into two zones ~ a decision that was taken to save the costs incurred by the AIFF and also to make the league more interesting.
However, with the I-League clubs agreeing to share the operational costs of conducting the league in the home-and-away format in the recently concluded meeting with federation officials, it seems more than likely that the clubs would have their way of continuing with the old format. "Dividing the league into zones would have made it regional rather than pan-Indian, which is detrimental to our efforts to popularise football throughout the country," Mr Dasgupta said.
Asked about his club’s stand on the IPL-style football league scheduled to be held from January to March next year, Mr Dasgupta maintained that such a tournament will not be beneficial for Indian football.
Earlier, the I-League clubs had unanimously agreed not to loan out players for the IMG-Reliance tournament and also not to take any IMG-Reliance contracted players on loan.
"Even if we consider the possibility of loaning out some of our players, what would the rest of them and the support staff do during the three months?" Mr Dasgupta said.
The clubs had also decided to host a rebel tournament during those three months.
"Right now, all we have are proposals and conjectures. It will all depend on how things turn out after talks with AIFF and IMG-R," Mr Dasgupta added.
Incidentally, IMG-R on Thursday called for a meeting (likely to take place in the next few days) with the I-League clubs to break the deadlock on the issue.