The I-League 2020-21 will be held in Kolkata with the rights of hosting the league and the second division qualifiers going to the Indian Football Association (IFA), AIFF announced on Friday.
The decision was reached at keeping in mind the available infrastructure facilities, and also the assurance from the Minister of Sports, Government of West Bengal about granting requisite permissions to organise both the I-League and second division, including arranging for practice sessions for the participating clubs.
It is expected that the 2nd division qualifiers will also serve as dress rehearsal for the I-League and enable all involved stakeholders to understand the Covid bubble and operate likewise for a seamless operation, the Committee felt.
The schedule and date for the 2nd division qualifiers and the I-League will be finalised once the Covid guidelines from the Central Government are issued.
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The decisions were taken in a video conference meeting that had Subrata Dutta, AIFF's senior vice president, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das and League CEO Sunando Dhar, Souter Vaz, Anil Kumar, BK Roka and Chirag Tanna.
Kushal Das discussed the topic of the duration of the I-League and ISL citing the 9-month Chinese Super League, which has been cut short due to the pandemic.
"We need to relook at the duration of I-League and ISL to ensure the absolute safety of players. It would be difficult to accept any Covid related infections on the players and officials," he said.
"Organising the league in one single venue under current circumstances is not easy. We need to think rationally. I reiterate that we should, and will do what is best to ensure the safety of the players," he added.
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Referring to dealing with the Covid bubble, Subrata Dutta stressed on the necessity to "strictly adhere to the medical parameters."
"The League department has already prepared the SOP which is to be strictly followed. The onus this year is not on the clubs but on the AIFF and the concerned state associations since we have already decided that the leagues would be held in one venue.
"We need to adhere to all the safety protocols to ensure that not a single player or official gets infected," he added.
"We need to leave no stone unturned and have a number of workshops to educate all stakeholders as we are currently working against all odds.
"We must ensure that we adhere to the standards to live up to the expectations of the football lovers in the country. The leagues need to be organised in a manner which will set an example for others to follow."
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Das further categorically stressed that "no compromises are to be accepted."
"The safety and health of the players are of paramount importance. The FIFA president in his virtual meeting with presidents of all other MAs have highlighted on ensuring the safety of all players and officials," Das stated.
"It's not the time for opinions or views. Let it be absolutely clear that the safety of players cannot be compromised with at any cost. There have been instances of global leagues condensing their format. We need to be extremely hard on it."
Furthermore, keeping in mind the current pandemic situation, the Committee granted an extension till September 30, 2020 for submission of all relevant documents for Academies applied under the AIFF Academy Accreditation.