Panaji: Three clubs from Goa – Dempo Sports Club, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa – stepped out of the I-league in the 2016-17 season because All India Football Federation (AIFF) did not had a clear roadmap of football in India after the start of the Indian Super League (ISL). Three years down the line, the situation appears murkier with seven I-League clubs putting a united front and leaving the ball with AIFF by threatening to approach the courts.
Churchill Brothers FC, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC, NEROCA and Gokulam Kerala FC met in New Delhi to show solidarity amongst the I-League clubs in the wake of reports that the AIFF Executive Committee meeting on July 3 is to ratify the ISL as the top league of the country and leave the I-League in oblivion.
“With media reports indicating that ISL being announced as the top division league post an Executive committee meeting scheduled for 3rd July 2019, the I-League clubs are standing united stronger than ever,” read a joint statement issued by the clubs on Monday.
“The refusal of the president of AIFF to meet the I-League clubs in spite of several requests and the subsequent vindictive actions specifically towards the I-League clubs, combined with the coercive and blackmailing attitude of FSDL towards AIFF by refusing to make payments pushes the game to an uncertain future,” reads the joint statement.
“The AIFF decreased the travelling allowance given to clubs since the last three years from 80 lakh to 70 to now 40. The player of the match money to be given to each announced player has not yet been distributed. How does the AIFF expect us to make payments to our staff if there is no flow from their side?” queried Minerva Punjab FC president Ranjit Bajaj with The Navhind times over the phone.
The AIFF while reacting to the joint statement of Hero I-League clubs felt that it was very premature and unnecessary to pre-judge any action of the AIFF, and be commenting on the AIFF Executive Committee meeting on July 3, 2019 in advance.
The AIFF responded to the joint statement stating: “The AIFF as a custodian of Indian Football has always endeavoured to balance to the interest of all stakeholders, and the Hero I-League, and its clubs. To say that the future of Hero I-League and the clubs will not be taken into consideration for any future decisions of the AIFF would be unfair.”
“As a matter of fact, a decision regarding the Hero Indian Super League becoming a league was also discussed with AFC, and FIFA before it was given recognition, and even for any future decisions AFC and FIFA will be duly consulted,” read the AIFF
Amidst the standoff with I-League clubs, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das on Monday brushed aside allegations that it was acting on the directions of its commercial partner, IMG-Reliance, which promotes the ISL.
Das termed “absolutely false” allegations of conflict of interest against him over the signing of Masters Rights Agreement (MRA) between the federation and IMG-Reliance in 2010.
“They are our commercial partners and have a say in a few things in terms of mainly commercial issues. But they have never interfered in any judicial body decision making or in standing committee meetings,” Das told a news agency during a chat.
“For example (Reliance Sports CEO) Sundar (Raman) was part of the technical committee and, just like any other members in any other body, he just asked his questions but did not try to influence.
“Yes, if the commercial rights are anywhere affected then they will of course be involved because the commercial rights are owned by them and it is fair for them to say that,” Das added.
Recently, the six aggrieved I-League clubs hit out at the AIFF disciplinary committee’s decision to impose a hefty fine of Rs 27.5 lakh on them for boycotting the Super Cup citing unfair “step-motherly” treatment by the federation.
The clubs that backed out at the last moment were initially fined Rs 10 lakh by the disciplinary committee and it was subsequently increased to 27.5 lakh.