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Why the I-League is not the EPL

And how the I-League is being smothered by the AIFF itself.

January 19, 2017
india-i-league-football

By Bittuspeeding (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There has been a lot of noise about Indian football, and its state. But let’s be honest: how is the common man, who likes football, supposed to make any of it out? We don’t know football legalese, we just see and hear and read. What we can do, however, is compare the way our football is run by its administrators, with those nations we just can’t get enough of. Let’s start with England.

The FA in England says, in its annual report itself, that the main source of its commercial revenue is broadcasting and sponsorship rights. These, it adds, are re-negotiated and sold in a cycle of 4 years. The broadcasting rights are for the FA Cup matches, and England matches; as for sponsorship, there is Emirates for the FA Cup, while Vauxhall, Mars , Carlsberg, and others are for the national team. Other revenue streams included prize money from FIFA tournaments, revenues from its assets (Wembley and St. George’s Park), as well as the FA Cup. Apart from that, it mentions membership fees of ‘Club Wembley’, which includes seats and private boxes; revenue from the Hilton Hotel which is close to St. George’s Park (onsite, they say). It mentions revenue from gate receipts for home England matches, and the FA Cup matches held at Wembley.

Note carefully. No mention of the EPL.

So, what is the EPL?

The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from the Football League, which was founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Each club is a shareholder, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The clubs elect a chairman, chief executive, and board of directors to oversee the daily operations of the league.

The FA does come into it, but in a very diluted way:

The Football Association is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Premier League, but has veto power as a special shareholder during the election of the chairman and chief executive and when new rules are adopted by the league.

[Wikipedia]

Ah. No, this is not an exception.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (Spanish: Real Federación Española de Fútbol) is the national governing body, and it organises two Cup competitions (the Copa del Rey, and the Supercopa de España), and the Spain national football team. The Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) (English: Professional Football League), integrated by a total of 42 football clubs, forms part of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) but has autonomy in its organisation and functioning. It is responsible for the organisation of state football leagues, in coordination with RFEF.

[Wikipedia]

To clarify, the LFP is responsible for organizing the La Liga and the Segunda Division.

And in Germany, too:

On 30 September 2000, at the extraordinary congress of the DFB-Bundestag in Mainz, the 36 professional clubs were released into the independence they had been demanding for many years. The Ligaverband was founded on 18 December 2000 as an Eingetragener Verein, with the DFB allowing the use of the two professional leagues in which the 36 professional clubs played in. In order to fulfill its duties, the Ligaverband established the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) as a subsidiary, and transferred their operations to it.

[Wikipedia]

To clarify again, the Bundesliga and its second division, the 2. Bundesliga, are both run by a body NOT under the control of the national football body. The body is comprised of the clubs in the 2 leagues.

Let’s talk about the I-League now.

As per the club licensing criterion of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the I-League must be a separate legal entity and must be run by an independent body comprising of the clubs, and not the AIFF Executive Committee alone as is the case now.

[Goal]

Asia asks India to do the same thing which the above 3 leagues have done. But India hasn’t.

In fact, our respected AIFF president has the gall to say that “The AIFF is not answerable to the clubs.”

Who sits on the AIFF Executive Committee?

There were elections for the posts of the executive members and the president in 2016. The returning officer (i.e. the official who supervises the election and then announces its results), Justice Bipin Chandra Kandpal (Retd.) said:

“I declare Mr. Praful Patel unanimously elected as the President of the All India Football Federation. All nominated persons for the posts of Executive Committee members have also been elected unanimously, subject to the final outcome of the pending court proceedings. Congratulations to all of them.”

[PTI News]

The moment an election is unanimously voted upon, with no opposition at all, that’s the moment it ceases it be of value. The AIFF isn’t exactly awe-inspiring either.

But alright. Let’s say, somehow, somehow, we can enforce changes, and make our league a separate legal entity; that will solve the problem, right? The answer is no. Listen to what Rajeev Piramal, co-owner of the former Pune FC, says:

But my point is today in the way that AIFF and IMG-Reliance deal is structured, even if the I-League is to become an independent separate entity what can you do because your rights have already been sold? So the AIFF has taken a decision on behalf of all the I-League clubs which basically has resulted in the clubs being in a position, as per the agreement that the AIFF has agreed with IMG-Reliance, where they see no money for the next 10-to-15 years. So are the clubs are expected to continue to operate without the prospect of anything changing?

[Goal]

The IMG-Reliance deal. Another instance where Indian football took the hammer and the nail; then, hammered in the nail in its own foot.

What about finances?

How do the I-League clubs earn?

Aiff pays I-League clubs Rs.40 lakh for travel and accommodation expenses every season, but there is no trickle-down from the broadcast revenue. None of Aiff’s broadcast deals are made public. In fact, more than one source told me that the federation had to pay channels to show matches.

The world’s top leagues run on broadcast money. For example, the English Football Association does not pay its clubs money to travel and live; but the billions of pounds that Sky, BT Sport and ITV pay them for rights to show matches is what makes the Premier League so lucrative.

[LiveMint]

This is why the I-League can never be the EPL.

Yes, the ISL. That, my dear friends, is bad turning to worse.


About the author: Hitesh Shetty
Dreams of writing a bestseller and changing the world. When awake, tries to figure out how to do both.

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