The Indian Club Licensing system is an annual process through which clubs get the mandatory license to participate in National and AFC Club Competitions for each season.
The All India Football Federation, with inputs from AFC and various other experts, made changes to the club licensing regulations and structure of the Indian Club Licensing system. They were brought into effect from the 2021-22 season of the Indian Club Licensing process. One significant structural change that was made this season was the type of licenses to apply for by the participating clubs. Until the 2020-21 season of the club licensing process, all participating clubs needed to apply for two separate licenses (AFC & National) and prepare two separate sets of documentation to participate in National and AFC Club Competitions. However, as per the new regulations, which came into effect from this season, all participating clubs have to apply for only one license. The new license would give them entry to both AFC & National Club Competitions.
Under the new regulations, Hero Indian Super League clubs are required to apply for “ICLS Premier 1” license, which would grant them participation in all AFC club competitions (subject to qualification on sporting merit) and the Hero Indian Super League. The Hero I-League clubs are required to apply for “ICLS Premier 2” license, which would grant them participation in AFC Cup (subject to qualification on sporting merit) and the Hero I-League.
A total of 21 clubs applied for respective licenses for the 2021-22 club licensing process. Indian Arrows, Rajasthan United and Sreenidi Deccan FC were exempted from applying for a license for the 2021-22 season.
Owing to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation, on a formal application from the All India Football Federation, exempted the participating clubs from fulfilling many criteria. These included the entire Infrastructure criteria, all youth development related criteria and some Personnel & Admin and Financial criteria.
After going through the entire Club Licensing process of the 2021-22 season, the following are the results:-
“ICLS Premier 1” licenses were granted to:- Mumbai City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan FC, NorthEast United FC, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC, Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC
“ICLS Premier 2” licenses were granted to:- Gokulam Kerala FC, Churchill Brothers FC and Roundglass Punjab FC.
Clubs that failed to get the respective license are as follows:- Hyderabad FC, SC East Bengal, Kerala Blasters FC, TRAU FC, Real Kashmir FC, Mohammedan Sporting FC, Aizawl FC, Sudeva Delhi FC, Chennai City FC and NEROCA FC. All these 10 clubs, after the communication of results, had an opportunity to either appeal against a possible wrongful decision, or accept the decision of the Club Licensing Committee and file for an exemption within the stipulated deadline.
Since a License or an Exemption is a mandatory requirement for each team to participate in the Hero Indian Super League or the Hero I-League, all 10 clubs who failed to get the respective license, have applied for an exemption to participate in their respective national league for the 2021-22 season. The Club Licensing Committee – First Instance Body, will meet soon to decide on the Exemption requests made by these clubs.