Kolkata is set to stage the next edition of the Hero I-League and the domestic football tournament is likely to kick off in December later this year, the AIFF said on Saturday.
The AIFF League Committee took this decision during its virtual meeting on Saturday. League CEO Sunando Dhar apprised the Committee 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 divided into two groups," Dhar said in a release.
"While the top half vying for the Championship will comprise 7 teams, the bottom half which will be battling it out for the relegation will have 6 teams. The number of matches will also be more this edition - a rise from 80 to 114.We are looking at a tentative date of mid-December onwards for kicking-off the Hero I-League. We are in talks with the Indian Football Association (Bengal), and also the Government of West Bengal to successfully organise the League in Kolkata and its suburbs like the last edition."
The Committee also deliberated on the relegation rule and decided that it "will be applied to the Hero I-League 2021-22 irrespective of the current situation, and there won't be any change in the regulation once the League kicks-off."
Keeping in view the logistical and financial feasibility in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee said "a maximum of 10 teams will be participating in the Hero I-League Qualifiers which are proposed to be held at a single venue," which will be Bengaluru. It'll 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, will be taken soon after detailed discussions with Odisha Sports, the hosts of the final round of the HIWL. "With an Indian club set to feature in the AFC Women's Club Championship 2021 -- a pilot tournament being implemented by the Asian Football Confederation -- the champions of the HIWL will be granted an entry to the Championship. However, in case the HIWL cannot be held owing to the pandemic situation, the champions of the previous edition will participate in the AFC Championship."
The Committee also discussed hosting the Futsal Club Championship in October 2021 in Shillong adhering to all health protocols.