Why AIFF's decision to scrap the Fed Cup makes sense for Indian football
Not holding the Fed Cup for a few years will give AIFF a chance to sort out their scheduling.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided on Thursday to 'put on hold' the 36-year-old Federation Cup for 'two-three years'. This seems to be a radical decision because the Fed Cup was India's second prestigious club tournament after the I-League.
But that was until the Indian Super League's arrival last year, which brought with it lots of glamour and better quality football, along with an almighty scheduling headache.
Now a Times of India report goes as far as to say that 'kept on hold' really means 'scrapped' — and if that is true, the decision would mean savings for the AIFF (Rs 3 crore) and a more streamlined football season.
Last year's I-League started on 21 September 2013 and ended on 28 April 2014. Squeezed between this was the Fed Cup, which started on 14 January 2014 and ended on 25 January 2014. There was a five month break after the I-League, after which the ISL started on 12 October 2014 and ran until 20 December.
Due to this, the I-League had to be shifted the following season. The season is currently on but only started in January this year. The Fed Cup was also preponed by a month. Essentially, the whole calendar was a mess.
Not holding the Fed Cup for a few years will give AIFF a chance to sort out their scheduling. The primary challenge will be to provide a football season which starts in August/September with the ISL and goes on till May-June the following year before peak summer and the monsoon hits the country. That will mean following the European model of an eight-nine month season with three primary club competitions: the ISL, the I-League and the AFC Cup. There's also the Durand Cup, which happens in the same months and will be taken more seriously now that the Fed Cup won't be held.
The AIFF also hinted that Fed Cup money will now be invested in lower divisions: "the 2nd Division League and the U-19 League should be broad based to include more teams and games," a statement said.
There's also the conflict of transfers. Keeping the ISL closer to the FIFA transfer windows will allow IMG to sign from a larger pool of foreign players — with the Indians moving freely on loan deals from the I-League.
"The Federation Cup was becoming a hindrance. If, for example, a player had signed for IMG-Reliance or any of the franchisees, he would have to take a loan and play for a club (in the I-League), then go again on loan for the ISL and then return for the I-League - which according to FIFA rules, is simply not acceptable," an official was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
One must also remember that having a season where leagues happen one after the other allows AIFF to ask FIFA or AFC to recognise both the ISL and the I-League.
The AIFF has taken a bold decision to knock the Fed Cup out — but it's the right one.
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