Calcutta is set to host the next edition of the Hero I-League, and the domestic football tournament is likely to begin in December later this year, the AIFF reported on Saturday.
The AIFF League Committee made this decision during its virtual meeting on Saturday.
League executive director Sunando Dar informed the commission that the I-League will be played among 13 teams this season.
“The format of the league will be the same as the last edition, with all teams playing each other once and then being divided into two groups,” Dhar said in a statement.
“While the upper half, which competes for the championship, will include 7 teams, the lower half, which will fight for relegation, will have 6 teams. The number of matches will also be higher in this edition – an increase from 80 to 114.
“We are looking for a preliminary date from mid-December onwards for the launch of Hero I-League. We are negotiating with the Indian Football Association (Bengal) as well as the West Bengal government to successfully organize the league in Kolkata and its suburbs as the latest edition.”
The committee also discussed the relegation rule and decided that “it will be applied to Hero I-League 2021-22 regardless of the current situation and there will be no change in the regulations once the League starts”.
Given the logistical and financial feasibility of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission said that “a maximum of 10 teams will take part in the Hero I-League qualifiers, which are proposed to take place in one place.
“The Committee has approved Bengaluru as the venue for the qualifications to be held in September 2021.”
The committee also said that a decision on the Indian Women’s League, which had to be postponed due to COVID-19, would be taken soon after detailed discussions with Odisha Sports, hosts of the HIWL final round.
“With an Indian club to participate in the 2021 AFC Women’s Club Championship – a pilot tournament run by the Asian Football Confederation – HIWL champions will gain access to the championship.
“However, in the event that the HIWL cannot be held due to the pandemic situation, the champions of the previous edition will participate in the AFC Championship.”
The committee also discussed hosting the club’s futsal championship in October 2021 in Shilong, following all health protocols.
The meeting, chaired by AIFF Senior Vice President Subrata Duta, was also attended by AIFF Secretary General Kushal Das.