The remaining 24 matches of the I-League, including the marquee Kolkata derby between champions Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, are likely to be played in empty stadiums owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, an All India Football Federation official said.
The AIFF, however, will hold a meeting with the I-League clubs on Friday before announcing a final decision. "We don't want to take a unilateral decision, we want to hear the clubs. So, we have fixed a meeting on Friday with them. But the most likely option is that the remaining 28 matches are played behind closed doors," the official told PTI.
"The AIFF will hold a Skype meeting with representatives from all I-League clubs at 4pm on Friday (March 13) in view of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports concerning the recent global outbreak of COVID-19," read a statement from AIFF.
The development came after the Sports Ministry's advisory to all national federations to follow the Health Ministry's advisory and avoid large gatherings in sports events. "...ensure that no public gathering takes place in any sporting event. In the event the sporting event cannot be avoided, the same could be done without allowing gathering of people, including spectators," read an order from the Sports Ministry.
Mohun Bagan have already clinched the I-League title on Tuesday with four rounds still to be played but the official said the remaining matches cannot be cancelled. "There will be relegation and promotion and other things. These cannot be decided without playing the full league. So, we have to hold all the remaining matches," he said.
The Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal draws the most crowd in I-League, and this season's second leg clash between the arch-rivals is scheduled on March 14 at the Salt Lake Stadium. The first leg was won by Mohun Bagan 2-1.
The final match of the Indian Super League, which will be the top-tier domestic competition from the next season, to be held on March 14 in Goa, will also be held in an empty stadium, the organisers said on Thursday.