Hero I-League CEO Sunando Dhar has no doubt that the Indian football roadmap agreed in 2019 will be successfully implemented by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), allowing lower-division clubs to not just fight for a spot in the top tier but also improve structurally. I-League clubs have written to the AFC and AIFF in order to seek clarity on the roadmap, approved by the continental body during its executive committee meeting in Vietnam, and whether the second-tier league’s winners will gain promotion to the Indian Super League (ISL), and Dhar says it will happen.
Some of the I-League clubs have been planning, as and when promotion-relegation kicks off, how they would want to improve financially, structurally and professionally,” Dhar told the Times of India. “The roadmap will help clubs develop. They have been looking forward to it. The roadmap will not just help the (Indian football) structure, but also help some of these clubs to have a more professional structure in place.”
Speaking about the I-League clubs planning in order to make their way into the ISL, Dhar said: “AIFF is on track with the roadmap and I have not heard anything to the contrary. The roadmap is being followed. It was signed after discussions with not only AFC, FIFA, but also ISL and I-League clubs. In a footballing ecosystem, promotion and relegation is very important for the development of the clubs. They have their own ambitions.”
The competition in the I-League has been fierce for the last couple of years with the winners and relegation battle being settled on the final day. Gokulam Kerala FC successfully defended their I-League title after a thrilling 2-1 win over second-placed Mohammedan SC on the final match-day of the season. Meanwhile the I-League clubs have been doing a very good job of giving ample opportunities to local footballers and it acts as a stepping stone for the promising players to get into the next level. \
— Hero I-League (@ILeagueOfficial) May 14, 2022
“The importance of the second division will go up and help provide constant supply to teams. There has been a lot of changes in the last 10 years. Teams have come from different corners. One of the first thing that we did when we sat down with FIFA for the strategic plan was to spread the game, take the game to different states and support state associations run their leagues. If the state leagues are strong, it means teams coming out of the state becomes more competitive in the second division. The classic example would be Rajasthan united. We need more teams to come in. We are in a good position structurally to do that.”, he concluded.