I-League 2019-20: Will Mohun Bagan be crowned champions? All you need to know
Questions have been raised, particularly by East Bengal, that if I-League is cancelled, then how can Mohun Bagan be named champions.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s league committee will be meeting again on Saturday to discuss the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the I-League 2019-20 season and other active competitions. But what will happen in the meeting? The Bridge tries to answer.
Why is this meeting important?
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, football, and almost every other sport, has come to a sudden standstill. In the wake of the rising cases in India, the I-League and all other active tournaments (only the Indian Super League (ISL) could be completed, albeit the final being played behind closed doors) had to be suspended indefinitely.
Now, with the national lockdown extended till May 3 and little to no possibility of competitive football returning anytime soon, the AIFF's league committee will meet on Saturday over a video conference to take a final call on the leagues.
Will Mohun Bagan be denied the I-League title?
By the time the I-League 2019-20 season was brought to a sudden halt, Mohun Bagan had already secured the title. With four rounds left to be played, the Kolkata giants had an unassailable lead (16 points) over second-placed East Bengal.
However, despite that, questions have been raised, particularly by age-old nemesis East Bengal, that if the league stands cancelled then how can a team be named champions.
Indeed, the rules do not state anything about season extension due to cancellation of games. However, the AIFF, being the chief governing body, has enough power to take important calls. The I-League regulations says "cases of force majeure are to be decided by the I-League Committee, whose decision will be final."
It is possible that the league committee will leave the decision making to the AIFF executive committee.
What happens to the 2nd Div clubs?
While there is more clarity on the I-League, speculations are rife about what happens to the Second Division I-League.
The clubs plying their trade in the second division are set to lose the most if the league is entirely cancelled. Clubs like Mohammedan Sporting, ARA FC, Bengaluru United and others have invested a lot in building squads capable of gaining promotion to the I-League.
Action from a 2nd Div match (Source: Facebook/Mohammedan Sporting)
It is understood, however, that the AIFF is keen on restarting the league whenever it’s possible and promoting the eventual champions. In fact, the AIFF will be reaching out to the second division clubs before taking a final call.
The challenge, though, lies in scheduling the final round. Most players have contracts only till May 31, when the season was supposed to end. Given the current scenario, it is highly likely that football will not resume in May. So, whether or nor players are willing to play slightly beyond that date remains to be seen.
Analysis: Why it might make sense to do away with relegation
The AIFF is considering the chances of doing away with relegation for this season due to the coronavirus situation. In fact, it has been learnt, the league committee is likely to waive off relegation under the circumstances.
Obviously, if the league is cancelled, the way things stand no team deserves to be relegated. The difference in points between 2nd-placed East Bengal and 10th-placed Aizawl is only seven; with four rounds still to go, there is no telling on how the final league table would have looked and which club would have finished in the relegation spot. As such, relegation should be out of the question.
On top of that, Mohun Bagan, having merged with ISL franchise ATK FC, will not be featuring in the I-League (which will effectively be deemed as the 2nd tier of Indian football) from the upcoming season. East Bengal, who are in talks with potential investors, made some ambitious moves in the transfer market and have claimed that they will play in the ISL next season, could also be on their way out.
If the 2nd Division is completed and the champion is promoted, and no clubs are relegated from the I-League, then the latter can continue in its current format with 10 teams and a developmental team from AIFF.
Also read: BREAKING: East Bengal in talks with possible investors, seek entry into ISL