The Club Licensing Criteria has been introduced by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and All India Football Federation (AIFF) to professionalize the structure of I- League. Until now, not much influence of Club Licensing Criteria has been observed in Indian football, but its importance in the structural development of I- League cannot be ignored.
As per Club Licensing Criteria, the clubs are instructed to register as separate Commercial Entities under the Companies Act, 1956. This criterion has been stipulated to encourage the clubs to undertake commercial activities with an objective of making profit which is relevant for the long term survival of these clubs.
Professional managers should be appointed in specialized areas of media, marketing and event management to ensure commercial success. An alternative provision of outsourcing these activities to an external organization has also been mentioned in Club Licensing Criteria. It also instructs the clubs to appoint qualified personnel for the proper functioning of the management and administration of these clubs.
The I-League is considered to be a step towards professionalism and therefore the professional players should be encouraged to participate in the Leagues. Thus, it is mandatory for the clubs to make contract with a specific number of professional players.
While drafting the Club Licensing Criteria, the AFC and AIFF officials put stress on the responsibility of the clubs to ensure constant supply of players by introducing two age specific teams. A number of national and state level tournaments have been started to provide participation opportunities to these teams.
To fulfill the Club Licensing Criteria, the clubs have to submit their financial statements so that AIFF can examine the financial conditions of the clubs. This criterion has been stipulated to assure that no club withdraws from the League because of financial crisis.
For organizing the matches, the clubs have to submit relevant information on a stadium where the matches will be organized and a practice ground where the practice sessions will be conduced. The club may make an agreement with the authority of a stadium for this purpose. These are the game- specific infrastructures. Apart from that, the clubs should have an office with modern facilities, such as telephone, computer, fax etc.
Fan Developmental Initiatives are important for making the association between the club and its fans stronger. The Indian football clubs have already started fan developmental activities to satisfy this criterion. The Community Developmental Initiatives play an instrumental role in promoting the clubs in their communities.
A number of community developmental initiatives have been adopted by the clubs, such as distributing football kits among the slum children, organizing blood donation camps, providing financial support to the students of economically backward families etc. In this context, it is pertinent to mention that much more emphasis should be provided to these activities.
A procedure has been developed for implementing the Club Licensing Criteria. At first, the clubs are asked to submit relevant documents for primary evaluation which is then followed by physical inspection. Then a detailed report is prepared for final assessment. However, it can be argued that the procedure may be made more effective for successful implementation of Club Licensing Criteria.
Club Licensing Criteria is undoubtedly a pioneering work for introducing professionalism in Indian football. The football fans of India may expect that the football administrators will play a proactive role in executing Club Licensing Criteria for the structural development of football in this country. [Source: Sportskeeda]
The author is a lecturer at the Naval Tata Centre of Excellence in Sports Management of the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business management, Kolkata