I-League clubs join hands, push AIFF to force roll-back on reduced coverage
Written by: Atrayo Bhattacharya
The top flight's official broadcaster Star Sports had earlier announced that it will be slashing the league's airtime.
Over the years the I-League has been a league full of excitement and drama. The league's main attraction has been the unpredictability that it brings every year. Starting from Aizawl FC's Leicester City-like triumph or Minerva Punjab's dominance defying all odds last season up until the final day. This year also more history is in the making as Chennai City are topping the table, but the southerners have some of their rivals in close vicinity. Although, Akbar Nawas' men are currently top of the table, only five points separate the top seven sides.
Right, when the year was ending on a high note for Indian football and especially with the intense drama of the I-League title race up ahead, Star India dropped a rather unexpected decision, declaring that they will only telecast 30 of the remaining matches from 29th December, taking the total tally to 80 out of the total 110 matches.
The declaration set social media on fire as fans all around the country revolted and slammed the broadcaster for simply neglecting India's top division. The team owners and club officials have also been vocal about the poor broadcast quality and their disappointment with the AIFF.
Hope @ILeagueOfficial clubs try to get clarity on future of the league considering @FIFAcom regulations on not having 2 top-tier leagues...— Sagavaj (@Sagavaj1) December 25, 2018
With latest statement on broadcasting...looks like @IndianFootball considers I-League as 2nd tier!!#SaveIndianFootball #ILeagueIConquer
People have also pointed their fingers at FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited), the body that operates the Indian Super League and is also marketing and promotion partner of the I-League alongside the AIFF.
I'm not a pro or anything but even I can tell that not giving importance to top division cannot help anyone except when you're trying to destroy the football ecosystem. #SaveIndianFootball pic.twitter.com/lIHZsHkK7W
— Deepesh Salhotra (@deepeshsalhotra) December 25, 2018
The matches to not be broadcast are mostly affecting teams like Minerva Punjab, Gokulam Kerala Aizawl FC. Football fans in Kolkata are more or less on the safer side as both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will have nine and eight matches televised respectively, out of their remaining 11.
There was an obvious outburst from Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj as he blamed several policies of the federation and the organisation, who according to him conspired against the league. Bajaj has also been vocal about his team's academy and its contribution to the national side and lashed out at their ISL counterparts for their lack of contribution in youth development. Chennai City CEO VC Praveen also shared his thoughts on the deal.
Single handedly destroying grassroots football - FSDL & @StarSportsIndia together had the strategy to first not let anyone buy the rights to @ILeagueOfficial then midseason abandon all the teams by leaving them and their sponsors in lurch by cancelling telecast of over 30 matches— Ranjit Bajaj (@THE_RanjitBajaj) December 22, 2018
At Least consider killing it in Style! pic.twitter.com/0SjxzYaPtj— Rohit R Rangrajan (@roh00) December 23, 2018
#boycottstarsports as if you don’t they can & THEY WILL DICTATE WHAT YOU WATCH even though the TRPS for a 5 pm & 2 pm @ILeagueOfficial Matches were as good as the 8 pm ISL matches but they own ISL so feel so threatened that they killed us and all our players /coaches/staff ????????— Ranjit Bajaj (@THE_RanjitBajaj) December 25, 2018
With social media ire way too high, the club owners and the fans have made an appeal to Star Sports to reconsider the decision and have also requested a meeting with AIFF President Praful Patel to discuss the matter.
Now it remains to be seen whether social media outbursts and revolt against this move can bring justice to India's top division or the broadcaster stays put on its decision.
Published: Wed Dec 26, 2018 03:44 PM IST