New tournament not I-League rival: Praful Patel

New Delhi, August 1 (IANS) All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel Thursday assured the I-League clubs that the proposed franchise-style football tournament will only be a "booster" to promote the beautiful game in the country and not be in conflict with the national league.

Speaking after the AIFF commercial partner IMG-Reliance presented the blueprint for the new tournament to be played Jan 18-March 30 next year in eight Indian cities, Patel said all fears of the I-League clubs and players will be allayed.

"Today IMG-R presented us the blueprint for the tournament. I think all the issues which are being discussed will be solved amicably. The main league in our country will remain the I-League. We have also inducted two new teams in this year's I-league and we will be more vigilant towards the AFC club licensing criteria," said Patel after the executive committee meeting of the AIFF here.

Patel admitted that there are a few issues like the I-League clubs refusing to release players and the timing of the new tournament, but he hoped that such things would be sorted out from the next season.

"This being the first year there is a little bit of timing issue coming in between the break in the league. But from next year the tournament will be held either before or after the league," said Patel

Patel said four AIFF vice-presidents -- Subrata Dutta, Srinivas Dempo, Larsing Ming and K. M. Mather -- have been asked to talk to the I-League clubs and convince them to release players for the tournament.

Dempo and Ming of Shillong Lajong are I-League club owners.

"There won't be any major conflict. There are some areas of understanding that we haven't arrived at. We have asked our four vice-presidents to talk to the clubs and convince them to release players. In fact, two of our vice-presidents are club owners. I am sure they will be able to see it from the perspective of both the AIFF and the clubs," he said.

The AIFF president said he was well aware of the contribution of the I-League clubs but the federation should also think of the future of Indian football.

"We are well aware of the contributions of I-League clubs. But we are also looking at a better future for Indian football and we will see that the clubs and IMG-R come to an amicable solution," said Patel.

The AIFF president said the I-League and the proposed tournament will go hand-in-hand in the development of Indian football.

"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," said Patel.

Patel also said that IMG-R was talking to some of the marquee international players, who have played in the World Cup, to be part of the tournament.

"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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