IMG-R unveils ambitious plan for AIFF's new tournament

New Delhi, August 1 (IANS) Eight clubs, 176 players, 72 overseas stars and 10 weeks of packed action -- that is how the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) commercial partner IMG-Reliance plans to glamourise Indian football early next year.

IMG-R presented their ambitious plan to the AIFF executive committee here Thursday amid huge opposition from the I-League clubs, who feel the new tournament will pose a threat to the professional league.

But AIFF president Praful Patel allayed those fear saying: "Our objective is to build Indian football and the short format is like a booster where we bring in people to follow the game. But at the end of the day, if Indian football has to grow and sustain itself, it will be with the help of the I-league."

The new tournament, scheduled between Jan 18 and March 30, is on the lines of cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL), also managed by IMG. IMG-R have a contract with the AIFF to run the event for 12 years.

AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta said that the tournament will be played across eight cities. Currently, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Goa and Guwahati have been shortlisted for the auction.

Each team will have nine foreign, eight Indians and four U-21 players, who will be up for grabs in September. Some of the world's top footballers -- David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Raul Gonzalez -- could be seen in action in the tournament.

There will also be eight icon players and four names will be made public in September before the franchise auction. The remaining four, along with other players, will be named in October before the players' auction in November. IMG-R have already signed 37 Indian players who this month will attend a four-week training camp in Bangalore under former East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan.

AIFF secretary general Kushal Das said that the new tournament will popularise the game in the country.

"IMG-R presented us the plan for the tournament. We are working on it and hopefully it will boost the game in the country," said Das.

Patel added that IMG-R was talking to some of the marquee international players, who have played in World Cups, to be part of the tourney.

"IMG-R has informed the executive committee that there are some marquee players and renowned World Cup stars who could play in the league," he said.

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