Club Licence System – How Indian clubs obtain the ultimate ICLS Premier 1 & 2 licence


Licence procurement is essential process in club football.

This article will explore the regulations and criteria that Indian clubs need to satisfy in order to obtain the Indian Club Licensing System (ICLS) licence.

On May 18, the All India Football Federation announced the results of the Club Licensing Premier 1 for Indian Super League clubs. Nine of the twelve top-flight clubs, including the newly promoted Punjab FC, obtained the ICLS Premier 1 licence. However, NorthEast United, Hyderabad FC, and East Bengal failed to obtain the licence on the grounds of failing to meet several “A” grade criteria. The results of the ICLS Premier 2 licence are also subject to announcement later this year. Have you ever wondered how clubs procure these licences?

Licence is an ‘entry ticket’ to competitions!

Club Licence System - How Indian clubs obtain the ultimate ICLS Premier 1 & 2 licence ICLS 23 1
Leagues and Competitions that can be played upon receiving each licence

For any club to play in the ISL, Super Cup, and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competitions such as the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup, it is mandatory to obtain the ICLS Premier 1 licence. Likewise, for I-league, the second division of the Indian football pyramid, the Super Cup, and the AFC Cup, the clubs must obtain an ICLS Premier 2 licence.

Regulations and Criteria

Club Licence System - How Indian clubs obtain the ultimate ICLS Premier 1 & 2 licence Screenshot 71
Criteria for Licensing System

The criteria to obtain the ICLS licence is divided into five categories. These are :

  • Sporting
  • Infrastructure
  • Personnel and Administrative
  • Legal
  • Financial

Here we will take a look a some of these criteria in a nutshell. These criteria are divided into three grades: A, B, C. Grade A and B criteria are deemed mandatory, while grade C criteria are only regarded as ‘best practices’ for the clubs. However, a failure to meet grade B criteria may still result in a club obtaining the licence to participate in the national and AFC club competitions, but failure to meet grade A criteria will lead to prohibition of a club from entering the competitions.

All of these are however, subject to relaxation from the AFC. AIFF may apply to the AFC to grant special permission to a club failing to acquire the licence, but qualified to play in the continental club competitions.

Sporting Criteria

Youth Development Programme is a vital part of the sporting criteria in licence regulations.

Sporting Criteria is mentioned in the Article 14 of the AIFF constitution, whose objectives are focused on laying down programmes for player development. One such criteria is Youth Development Programmes (YDP) which falls in the A-category for both ICLS Premier 1 and Premier 2 licence, meaning it is mandatory without any exemption under any circumstances.

The YDP of the clubs must be supported by proper infrastructure facilities and must last for a duration of three years minimum up-to seven years. Further, the programmes must be implemented for all age categories and should be accompanied by allowance for non-footballing education to the players. The youth teams must include one U-10, one U-13 and two U-15 and U-17 teams each participating in the state and national-level competitions.

The Sporting Criteria also includes a mandatory women’s team for each club with active participation in domestic competitions. Also,it includes organization of football awareness and promotion programmes to reach out to more people locally. Besides, the club must have a youth football academy recognized by the AIFF, and must organize ‘Golden Baby League’ for children.

Infrastructure Criteria

Stadium and training facilities of the clubs are crucial elements in the licensing process.

The Infrastructure Criteria includes availability of a stadium owned by the club, or acquired via a contract for use during competitions, whilst fulfilling the AIFF and the AFC criteria. The club must also own or acquire via a contract, training facilities which must boast 90-110 m long and 45-75 m wide football field. These criteria are however clubbed in the B-category, and may be considered for exemption.

Administrative and Personnel Criteria

Coaches must strictly adhere to minimum coaching certification.

Under Administrative and Personnel Criteria, the AIFF regulations state that the first team head-coach must hold at least an AFC ‘Pro’ coaching certificate or its equivalent for ICLS Premier 1 licence, and an AFC ‘A’ coaching certificate or its equivalent for ICLS Premier 2 licence. At the same time, the first team assistant coach must hold at least an AFC ‘A’ coaching certificate or its equivalence for Premier 1 licence and an AFC ‘B’ coaching certificate or its equivalence for Premier 2 licence.

The Head of Youth Development must hold at least an AFC ‘A’ coaching certificate or its equivalent. The club must recruit a minimum of three youth coaches, with two of these coaches bearing at least an AFC ‘B’ coaching certificate or its equivalent, and the rest must hold at least an AFC ‘C’ coaching certificate or its equivalent. All of these are mandatory as they fall under A-category criteria.

The club technical director must hold at least an AFC ‘A’ coaching certificate or its equivalent. The first team goalkeeping coach must bear an AFC Level 3 coaching certificate or its equivalent. The first team fitness coach must hold an AFC Level 2 coaching certificate or its equivalent. These coaching criteria fall under B-category (mandatory but subject to exemption) for Premier 1 licence and C-category (best practices) for Premier 2 licence. Also supplementary qualities include playing and working experience in the game as a player, and/or a coach, and/or an advisor for an extensive period.

Financial Criteria

Salary cap is a key aspect to financial criteria.

Financial Criteria includes the salary cap, which restricts the club expenditure on players (salary and other expenses) to 65% of its budget. This has been lowered from the 2021-22 season, which was capped at 70% of the budget. This falls under A-category for both Premier 1 and 2 licence. The club must also allocate 10% of its budget to Club Development Plan (CDP). CDP includes up-gradation of infrastructure, youth and grassroots programme, marketing and women’s football teams of all age categories. This falls under A-category for Premier 1 and B-category for Premier 2 licence.

Besides these, the legal criteria covers the aspect of contracts, administrative powers, and other processes involving the competition participation as well as the financial aspects of the club.

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Shubham Sharma
Shubham Sharma
Co-founder, IFTWC. Mad football fan, but also chemophile.

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