East Bengal, Kerala Blasters among five ISL clubs without AIFF license ahead of 2020-21 season

East Bengal players celebrate a goal against TRAU during the 2019-20 I-League season. AIFF media

Five Indian Super League (ISL) clubs have failed to meet the AFC and national licensing criteria and will now have to either appeal against the decision or seek exemption from the AIFF in order to take part in the league starting on Friday. Odisha FC, NorthEast United FC, Kerala Blasters, Hyderabad FC and new entrants Sporting Club East Bengal are the five clubs which were not handed licenses by the AIFF to be able to take part in AFC and national competitions this season.

"These five clubs will have to appeal against the decision or will have to seek exemption from sanctions if they want to take part in the ISL," Sunando Dhar, the AIFF CEO of Leagues, told PTI.

Any club which fails to secure AFC License will not be able to take part in continental tournaments likes AFC Champions League and AFC Cup even if they qualify from the ISL.

For clubs to get licenses, they need to fulfil five main criteria -- sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal and financial. Each division has further sub-divisions. Owing to the current situation, the Asian Football Confederation has been considerate enough to accommodate criteria exception and deadline extension requests made by AIFF throughout the licensing cycle of 2020-21 season. As a result, many criteria were exempted and the deadlines too were extended multiple times, the AIFF said.

The clubs were to comply with five mandatory licensing criteria but this season, the AFC had exempted youth development programme, medical support services, grassroots programme, club youth academy and youth coaches, among others.

FC Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC, Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai City FC have successfully secured the AFC and National licences for the 2020-21 season. The AIFF said that a decision on the club licensing applications of eight I-League clubs will be taken soon.