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Bhutia bats for promotion-relegation system in India

New Delhi: India must introduce the promotion-relegation system with bigger pool of teams, said football icon Bhaichung Bhutia, hinting that merger of I League and ISL is the way forward.

Former captain Bhutia did not say it in as many words but it appeared he was not against the idea of merger to settle the controversy surrounding the Indian Super League and the I-League. "I am not talking about merger. We need to have bigger number of teams with separate divisions, say 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions, where we can have relegation and promotion system. This is what the format is all across the world and I think we need to get into that format soon," Bhutia said. He spoke on the sidelines of a knowledge session on 'Intergrity in Sports' organised by the All India Gaming Federation and industry body, FICCI.

Bhutia was of the opinion that the I-League clubs' move to approach FIFA won't work as the world body will eventually pass the buck on to the AIFF to clear the mess. Top I-League clubs such as Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have written to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, asking for his help in their fight for survival in Indian football. Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC are among the six clubs to have written to the sport's global body, with Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj signing the letter.

The clubs' biggest bone of contention is the top tier status accorded to Indian Super League by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as per the Master Right Agreement (MRA) signed between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance in 2010. Bhutia is confident that AIFF will sort out all the issues.

"I can't really comment on the federation and what is right and what is wrong but I am sure there are challenges for the federation as well. It's not that the federation is not doing anything. I welcome (AIFF president) Praful Patel's statement few days ago where he said that within few years the two leagues will be merged," he said.

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