I-League winners to be promoted to ISL next season: AIFF

The Football House, headquarters of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), in New Delhi Qamar Sibtain/The India Today Group via Getty Images

The winner of this season's I-League will be promoted to the ISL next season, announced the AIFF on Saturday. The promotion will not be subject to payment of any fee, as per the roadmap finalised three years ago.

"We can confirm that the I-League winner of this season will be promoted to the ISL (2023-24 season) subject to fulfilling the Premier one licensing criteria and sporting merit," AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran told PTI.

"They (I-League winners) will not give any (participation) fee. Since all the clubs playing in the ISL will have to fulfil Premier one licensing criteria, they (I-League winners) also will have to fulfil the criteria."

According to the roadmap approved in 2019 with the involvement of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and agreed upon by the stakeholders, the I-League champion team of this season (2022-23), as well as that of next year (2023-24), will get direct slot in the next season of the top-tier ISL.

The promotion-and-relegation system was to kick in the ISL from 2024-25 season onwards.

"The decision is as per the roadmap which was agreed earlier. We have just continued with the roadmap. This will end all the speculation and will take Indian football forward. The I-League clubs will welcome this decision."

The AIFF was to announce the decision at the press conference held here on Friday, but could not do that as it did not get the go-ahead from its legal team then.

"Our legal team could not complete work yesterday. But they have completed it today and we have got the legal go ahead now," Prabhakaran said.

"Since it was in the roadmap agreed earlier, there is no need for the executive council of the AIFF to approve it again. This decision (to promote I-League winner to ISL) is final."

The I-League, which begins on November 12 at Manjeri with defending champions Gokulam Kerala hosting last year's runners-up Mohammedan Sporting, will be telecast live on two channels -- Eurosport and DD Sports -- and will be live-streamed on the Discovery Plus OTT platform.