The group stage winners of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 is set to be awarded an AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage spot, Goal can confirm. Also, the second-placed team after the league stages will also be guaranteed a continental spot as they will get an AFC Cup group stage spot.
Meanwhile, I-League will also continue to have a representative in Asia as its league winners will get to feature directly in the AFC Cup group stage. A special dispensation has been made by AFC (Asian Football Confederation) to accommodate the I-League champions for the next three years at the behest of the All India Football Federation (AIFF). After the period of three years, the winners of the Super Cup will be entitled to that spot.
Goal had previously reported in September, that AIFF President Praful Patel and General Secretary Kushal Das have been in talks with AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor for a guaranteed spot in the Champions League and recent developments have ensured it will be a reality from this season itself.
Meanwhile, Patel also delivered on his promise that I-League will continue to be represented in Asia which he made after holding a meeting with the I-League clubs back in July.
"I feel that the I-League also must co-exist with the fullest recognition of the AFC so that it is an AFC product. It should not be something that is not recognised by the AFC. So the clubs in I-League must also not get lost in the upward movement," stated the FIFA Council member.
This arrangement has already been ratified by AFC's Competition Committee and it will be for the first time that there will be three clubs representing India at the continental stage, with one of them plying their trade in the premier club competition in Asia.
It must be noted that Patel is a former vice-president of AFC and in April he became the first Indian to become a member of the FIFA Council and it seems that Indian football is already reaping its dividends.
Until last season, winners of the I-League had a spot in the preliminary qualifiers of the ACL while the ISL winners had to take part in the AFC Cup play-offs.