Bhutia, Chhetri to play in AIFF’s new league tournament

New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Some of the star Indian footballers, including former skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, are likely to feature in All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) franchise-based tournament planned by its marketing partner IMG-Reliance in the 2013-14 season.

IMG-Reliance have already approached nine players, including Bhutia, and they have shown their interest in playing in the eight-team tournament which will be held from January 14-March 13 next year.

“IMG-Reliance have approached nine star players and they have agreed to play in the tournament. Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri are some of the prominent names, who have shown their interest to play,” an AIFF official told IANS Tuesday.

Indian defender Syed Rahim Nabi and star goalkeeper Subrata Paul have also been approached.

But AIFF is yet to decide on the players’ transfer and club registration rules and may have to ring in some changes in its constitution for the tournament.

“We have asked IMG-Reliance to come up with a detailed plan for the tournament. We may have to bring some changes in our constitution to make way for the tournament. It will be an eight-team tournament and we are trying to give it a pan-India touch,” the official said.

The AIFF wants all the eight clubs to be centrally registered but according to current rules clubs can only be registered with state associations.

IMG-Reliance will also have to take players on loan from the I-League clubs for two months and players’ transfer rules also would have to be amended. As per the AIFF rules, a player can sign for only one club in a season.

The new league organisers have a plan to sign all the players by June. They may again loan out the players to I-League clubs and call them back during their league. But it may again put the AIFF and the I-League clubs on collision course.

“All amendments will be made in accordance with FIFA rules,” the official said.

But what may benefit IMG-Reliance is that I-League clubs are struggling to play their players in the current financial scenario.

“The clubs are struggling to play their players and it may just work for the new tournament,” the official added.

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