Hindustan Times, Kolkata
With Mohun Bagan having won the top tier, it is completing the second division of the I-League that is worrying the All India Football Federation (AIFF) more.
There are 17 teams in the second division, including eight reserve sides this term. The reserve teams can’t qualify to the final round where four teams will play each other once with the winners promoted to the 2020-21 I-League first division.
With teams split into three groups, competition began on January 25. When it was halted last month to combat the spread of Covid-19, group league ties, played in the home-and-away format, were yet to be completed.
The final round included, there are 28 games remaining this term: nine in Group A, five in Group B and eight in Group C.
The Indian football season ends on May 31. Should clearance from the Union sports ministry not come in time for the league to be completed before that, AIFF may carry forward the second division to 2020-21.
“Teams then won’t need to compulsorily renegotiate with players whose contracts end on May 31. They can register new players for next season and play out the rest of the competition. It is what Indian teams do when they qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Cup which runs from February to November. Given that this is an unusual situation that can be a way forward, one which, because the 2019-20 season has not finished, does not add to the clubs’ salaries,” said an AIFF official who did not wish to be named.
On completing the rest of the league, the winners can play in the top tier of the 2020-21 I-League, said the official.
East Bengal and Gokulam Kerala FC have written to AIFF to not take a decision now on the first division but with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) congratulating Mohun Bagan for winning it, voiding the season, if needed, would be easier, said another official, also requesting anonymity. There are 23 games left in the top tier.
“We will first need to hear from the sports ministry when sporting activity can be resumed. Only then will we discuss the future of this season’s I-League first and second division,” said Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary.
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