Present along with Mr Hmar in the League Committee meeting were Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran, and Committee Members Mr M Satyanarayan, Mr Arif Ali, Dr Kiran Chougule, Mr Amit Chaudhuri and Mr Caetano Fernandes.
Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran said, “This is an important meeting, and the decisions made today will have significant impact, not only on the Hero I-League, but also for the overall development of football in the country. I would like to congratulate everyone on the successful completion of the Hero I-League, and the Hero Second Division League is also at its final stage now.”
He further stated, “As we all know, the Roadmap of the AIFF plans to expand the league system to more teams, and provide more opportunities to invest in Indian Football. I’m sure these decisions will inspire the footballing community to come forward and participate in football and create a robust league that will be able to meet the expectations of all our fans and stakeholders.”
League Committee Chairperson Mr Hmar said, “This Committee has been the most proactive in bringing positive changes. There are a lot of activities that are going on, and we are in the process of completing a fruitful season.”
The first thing on the Committee’s agenda was to increase the number of teams in the Hero I-League, for which, it was recommended by its members that bids be invited in a triple-tier system in order to provide opportunities to aspiring clubs and/or investors from various socio-economic backdrops.
New Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Gurugram, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, and Noida have been identified as the Tier 1 cities from where potential clubs could bid for a place in the Hero I-League. Tier 2 cities for the bids were identified as follows – Ranchi, Itanagar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Phagwara, Coimbatore, Manjeri, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhopal, and Shillong.
Meanwhile, the Committee also suggested that bids from clubs willing to be based out of Tier 3 towns be also invited. Entities from any village under the control of panchayats can also come up with bids, provided they own a stadium, training facilities, which are not more than 200 km from any domestic airport.
The Committee recommended that the minimum bid value for potential clubs from Tier 1 and 2 should be minimum Rs 5 crore and Rs 2.5 crore, respectively, while the same for the Tier 3 bidders minimum Rs 1 crore.
The teams with the higher bid value will be given preference of selection, and no subsidy will be provided to teams that enter the Hero I-League, for their respective first two seasons. All teams that come through with bids will have to pay 50 per cent of their respective bid values as participation fee till the year the team plays in the league, for a maximum of three years.
Winning bids from Tier 1 and 2 cities will have relegation immunity for two seasons, while the same from Tier 3 cities will be for one season.
Bidders from Tier 1 cities must have a minimum net worth of Rs 100 crore, from Tier 2 towns must have a minimum net worth of Rs 50 crore, while the same for Tier 3 bidders will be Rs 40 crore.
The bidders will be evaluated on the supporting documents that they submit, based on which a number of criteria points will be awarded to them.
League Committee Chairperson Mr Hmar said, “As per Target 2026, we aim to have 14 teams in the Hero I-League by that year, so we will take the call on how many clubs will gain entry based on the strength of the bids that we receive. This is an opportunity for us to increase participation, but we also need to ensure that the new bidders are prepared to invest in Indian Football and can sustain themselves at that level.”
The Committee, and the behest of a number of Hero I-League clubs, deliberated long on the criteria for the number of foreign players allowed in the league, and came up with the suggestion that the foreigners quota be reduced in order to allow more Indian players to get opportunities in the Hero I-League. It was recommended that the clubs be allowed to register up to five foreigners in their squad and field maximum three foreign players in their playing XI. It will no more be mandatory, suggested the Committee, for clubs to sign specifically an Asian quota player.
The members of the Committee also put up the suggestion to maintain status quo in U-22 Regulation in the 2023-24 season of the Hero I-League, which states that every Participating Club needs to ensure five of the total registered players in the squad need to be under the age of 22 (born on or after 1-1-2002).