Mohun Bagan were declared champions of the 2019-20 I-League after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to freeze the competition and end the season on Saturday. Mohun Bagan, on an unassailable 39 points 16 ahead of second-placed East Bengal when the competition was stopped due to the coronavirus last month, will get the winners’ prize of Rs 1 crore. Following a meeting of the league committee under Subrata Dutta, senior vice-president of the AIFF, it was decided to split the remaining prize purse of Rs 1.25 crore equally among 10 teams. The second (Rs 60 lakh), third (Rs 40 lakh) and fourth (Rs 25 lakh) teams in the I-League get a share of the prize money.
The AIFF had sought suggestions from I-League clubs and barring East Bengal, all had said Mohun Bagan should be declared winners and the remaining prize purse be equally divided. Four points separated the second to eighth teams when the league was stopped.
In light of the above, the Committee deliberated various matters and recognising COVID-19 global crisis as a force majeure event of unique and unprecedented circumstances, recommended the following to the AIFF Executive Committee.
- The Committee recommended that the 2019-20 season be deemed to be concluded.
- That Mohun Bagan be declared as the Hero I-League champion for the 2019-20 season as they stand atop current standings in the Hero I-League until the point of suspension on March 14, 2020. Furthermore, Mohun Bagan with 39 points from 16 matches enjoys a point difference which is insurmountable by any other team even if all other matches had been played and concluded as a normal course of action.
- With regards to the remaining clubs, and noting the concerns expressed by many of them in writing, the League Committee recommended the remaining prize money (apart from the champion’s prize money) be equally divided among the remaining 10 participating clubs.
- The Committee also recommended that there be no relegation from the Hero I-League 2019-20 season.
- In reference to the Hero 2 Division, the Committee waits for approval over regulatory matters from the AIFF Executive Committee and the Asian Football Confederation to understand the feasibility of organising a shorter duration tournament next season for qualification to the Hero I-League 2020-21.
- Meanwhile, with nearly 500 matches yet to completed in various youth leagues, the Committee felt it would be an injustice for kids and youth players to be compromising with social distancing, and hence, recommended to stand by the conclusion of all youth leagues in the current season – the Hero sub-junior League, the Hero Junior League, the Hero Elite League, and the U-17 Khelo India Girls League – and start afresh from 2020-21 season.
- Understanding the current crisis, the Committee felt it needed to be flexible as per AIFF Academy Accreditation is concerned — as the primary objective is to increase participation of clubs and players. Hence, the Committee recommended for an extension of the deadline for submission of the requisite documentation after the ongoing lockdown is revoked.
With Mohun Bagan joining the Indian Super League next season, it was also decided that there would be no relegation in 2019-20.
No individual awards will be given because the season couldn’t be completed, said an AIFF official. I-League has awards for the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, forward, the highest goalscorer, emerging player and the player with the best disciplinary record.
2nd div proposal
Before the 2020-21 first division starts, a league-cum-knockout competition involving eight second-division teams who played this term has been proposed, according to the official. The competition is subject to approval of the AIFF executive committee and the Asian Football Confederation. The winners will be promoted to the 2020-21 I-League first division.
Reserve teams of the Indian Super League, which play the I-League second division but cannot be promoted, will not be part of the competition.
With nearly 500 games remaining in different youth leagues, the committee decided those competitions will start afresh next season.