New Delhi: In an effort to arrest the declining standard of the Santosh Trophy, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has decided to split the national football championship into two different divisions.
Under the format to be introduced this season, Santosh Trophy will now be a two-tier meet to be played in two separate venues.
In the Tier One, which will effectively be the main tournament, the top 16 finishers of last year’s meet will fight it out for the title.
The rest of the states will play in Tier Two in a different venue with the winners and runners-up qualifying for next season’s Tier One. The last two finishers in the main tournament would be demoted to the lower tier.
Justifying the need to change the format of the inter-state championship, an AIFF official said it was an effort to separate men from the boys. “The format had already been introduced in the under-19 nationals for the BC Roy Trophy last season.
“Some states take the national championship seriously while some teams are found to be too inferior to put up a decent competition. It lowers the standard of the championship. So, we decided to divide the tournament into two tiers,” the official said.
The venues for this season’s Santosh Trophy have not yet been finalised, though Kerala and Uttar Pradesh remain the front runners.
While Kochi is likely to host the final, at least three other venues in Kerala have been shortlisted for group league matches.
In Uttar Pradesh, the matches are likely to be held in Lucknow.