“The first season of ISL was a huge success and I want it to be better in season 2. But I don’t see it (ISL merging with I-League) happening. ISL is a three-month long tournament and has attracted some very big names like Roberto Carlos. I don’t want ISL to merge with I-League,” said the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ here at a media conference to announce DHL as the official logistics and timing partner of ISL.
Earlier this month, All-India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel said, after a joint meeting with I- League clubs and ISL organisers – IMG-Reliance – that a united league was the way forward but it would take some time to happen.
Faced with the prospect of closure of two Pune-based I-League teams, AIFF decided to form a working group as a precursor to merge the two championships.
“We are working towards one entity in future — the I-League clubs and the ISL. A working group will be formed, about nine members, to work out the way,” Patel had said after the meeting that was held to lay the roadmap for the domestic club league.
Bhutia sympathised with the predicament of the two Pune-based I-League clubs, Pune FC and Bharat FC, who are thinking of shutting shop in the near future.
“I can understand their position. It’s not easy as sponsorship is difficult to get. I-league does not get the kind of TV viewership and mileage like ISL. I had my own club Sikkim United and though it’s not shut down, I am running it at a smaller scale,” said the 38-year-old star footballer.
He said the one small difference between his club and the Pune outfits was that the latter were backed by corporates and he advised them to “develop a good fan base” and also to spend “wisely”.