Football: India postpones new league

NEW DELHI - A new football tournament in India that was to feature former international stars of the game has been postponed after opposition from domestic clubs, organisers said Monday.

The franchise-based event by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its commercial partners IMG-Reliance, which was due to be held from January to March next year has now been pushed back until September.

"Keeping in view of various key factors, including scheduling conflicts with the (national) I-League, it has been decided to launch the Indian Super League on a permanent window of September to November starting from year 2014," an official statement said.

The Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that possible franchise owners had told the AIFF that there was not enough time to prepare for such a league.

Former international stars such as Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Hernan Crespo, Fredrik Ljungberg, Dwight Yorke and Louis Saha were reported to have been lined up for the league.

Squads for the eight yet undecided city teams were to comprise nine foreign and 13 Indian players each.

The made-for-television event, sold to Rupert Murdoch-owned Star TV network, had already run into trouble over fierce opposition from India's top clubs.

The clubs declined to release their players for the tournament, saying it would ruin the national I-League competition.

Last year a similar idea by football officials in West Bengal state for a franchise-based league featuring other retired stars such as Crespo and Fabio Cannavaro foundered.

India, ranked a lowly 154th in the world and 28th in Asia, has seen a surge in football's popularity due to live television coverage of matches played around the globe.

Star TV, which also beams English Premier League (EPL) matches into the country, roped in India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to promote football for its sports channel.

It also launched Hindi-language commentary on EPL games to ensure wider viewership in smaller towns where English is spoken less commonly.