The clubs have stated that they expect a response from the AIFF ahead of the start of the competition.

Seven I-League have withdrawn from the upcoming Super Cup 2018-19 tournament, citing the unfair treatment dished out to the top flight’s clubs, press release sent by former I-League champions Minerva Punjab has claimed. The clubs which include Minerva Punjab, Gokulam Kerala, recently crowned champions Chennai City, East Bengal, Aizawl FC, NEROCA FC and Mohun Bagan informed of their decision through a letter sent to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Mr Kushal Das today.

Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj has been very vocal about the unfair treatment meted out to I-League clubs and has been the face of an online awareness campaign with the hashthag #SaveILeague #SaveIndianFootball.

In December, 2018, eight I League clubs met in Kolkata to discuss issues concerning the unfair treatment by the AIFF and the poor conditions of the league and decided on a joint course of action on the matter. Bajaj had claimed last week that the clubs had written to the AIFF multiple times, but were yet to receive any word from the highest goevrning body in India football.

“He (AIFF President Praful Patel) is not even giving us time to meet him. Initially, five clubs and then eight clubs, including Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, got together and wrote to him.

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“I think East Bengal and Mohun Bagan officials should say that you neither have any respect for us, nor have the time to meet us, then why do you think, we should go and join you?” he had asked.

The clubs pointed out that they are being neglected in all aspects by the country’s football federation. Eight I-League clubs had written a letter to the AIFF in February this year regarding multiple concerns, such as the future of the I-League, but they are yet to hear back from the apex body.

The former champions also highlighted how the AIFF has not provided any financial assistance to the participating teams, despite having a title sponsor for the event. With no AFC competitions also on offer, the club felt the competition lacked any incentive for the teams.

Bajaj has been extremely critical of the ISL, where relegation and promotion battles do not exist and blames it for the drop in quality in matches and performances from many clubs who, he suggests, do not have the necessary incentives to lay it all out on the pitch. 

The Super Cup is a knockout tournament organized by the AIFF, where I-League teams lock horns against their ISL counterparts. It is India’s main club knockout tournament and qualifiers for this season’s edition are scheduled to be held over two days on Friday and Saturday. However, the clubs will now wait for a response from the AIFF before taking a final decision.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das confirmed to ESPN that he had received the withdrawal letter from all eight clubs, but did not clarify the board’s future course of action.

The copy of the letter

Gokulam Kerala and Mohun Bagan on 13th March issued statement having similar opinions and course of action with Minerva Punjab FC.

(This article was last updated on 13 March 2019 at 5:45 PM IST)