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FIFA ban looms large as FSDL takes AIFF to Supreme Court.

Indian football being hit with a FIFA ban looked a real possibility on Tuesday after the commercial partners of the sport’s governing body in the country approached the Supreme Court over contentious clauses in the draft constitution.

Many state associations and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) marketing partners who run the Indian Super League (ISL), have both filed separate intervention applications in the apex court with the main bone of contention being which among the I-League and ISL would be the country’s top-tier league going ahead.

In its application, the FSDL has mentioned that the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) has “failed” to take into consideration its objections and also “rejected” certain suggestions. The case will come up for hearing on Thursday.

A FIFA-AFC team, which had visited the country last month to take stock of the situation after the SC ousted the office bearers led by Praful Patel, had set strict deadlines to hold elections by September 15.

In the clause related to the country’s foremost men’s league it is mentioned that the league will be run by the AIFF with promotion and relegation in place. Though not mentioned in as many words, it is clear that the clause was referring to the AIFF-managed I-League as the country’s top league, something that did not go well with FSDL, as its product ISL was accorded recognition as the top-tier league in October 2019 by Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The ISL does not have promotion and relegation.

In the intervention application, it mentions that the applicant is constrained to approach the top court as “certain exclusive rights and entitlements” granted in favour of the applicant under a long-term agreement — Master Rights Agreement on December 9, 2010, are being “totally disregarded and violated by virtue of certain provisions contained in the proposed Constitution of the AIFF”.

“It is the humble submission of the applicant that the Committee of Administrators has failed to take into consideration and has even rejected certain material suggestions and objections to the Constitution of the AIFF made by the Applicant herein. “Further the said provisions are also against the development and promotion of football in India,” it added in its application.

The state associations, represented by a seven-member panel, had earlier written to the FIFA that several clauses of the final draft constitution, prepared by the COA, were discriminatory and illogical.

During a meeting between the COA and state FAs, Goa supported the I-League as the top league, as representative Joaquim Alemao and Valanka Alemao represent I-League club Churchill Brothers. Most of the other state units opposed the clause in the draft to put I-League over ISL.

With the FSDL and state units raising objections against more than 20 points , there is a big possibility of the country getting banned by world football governing body FIFA. The FSDL annually pays Rs 55 crore for rights and license to run the ISL.