The top flight clubs have reaffirmed that they will also approach FIFA if national football’s apex body fails to act.
In a press conference called by the I-League (Private) Clubs Association in Kolkata on Sunday, Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj, with the support of several other clubs- Shillong Lajong, Aizawl FC, NEROCA FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Chennai City have presented a set of demands to the AIFF.
The conference started on an explosive note, with Bajaj alleging that the AIFF and the FSDL are coluding in order to destroy the I-League. He alleged that the apex body has sold itself to a private organization which is trying to monopolize the beautiful game.
He revealed that his primary grievance was against Star Sports’ decision that they would broadcast only 80 matches from the 110 I-League fixtures. He further stated that Churchill Brothers refused to be a part of this association as they had stayed in the league thanks to the AIFF’s benevolence in reinstating them despite last season’s relegation. He also claimed that their unnatural continuity in the league has cost each club 30 lakhs in terms of stipend from the AIFF.
Bajaj was also vocal about his demands to ensure that the I-League remains the top league of the country. The Minerva Punjab owner revealed that he had formed the association in October and they had a Whatsapp group of all the club owners. However, despite showing support initially, Real Kashmir have stayed silent of late and did not attend the conference on Sunday, bowing down to continuous ‘pressure.’
He also stated that both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan had remained indifferent to his call to arms, claiming that the Kolkata clubs did so because they would be featuring in the ISL next season. He even took this occasion to “beg” their support, as it will be crucial for him and the association to make their case in front of the media. He warned the West Bengal outfits that they could well be ousted from their apparent position of comfort in next season itself.
Bajaj then went on to clarify how FSDL had been influencing even the selection of the national team manager and players, and how leaving out the likes of Michael Soosairaj and Jobby Justin from the AFC Asian Cup squad was unforgivable.
He was backed by Dr. Ashok, the Gokulam Kerala representative, who said that the step-motherly treatment meted out to the I-League was not acceptable and that the AIFF is slowly trying to kill the “backbone of Indian Football.”
Arvindan Vijaykumar, the operations head of Chennai City noted that the decision of Star Sports to not broadcast the live games was one of “accountability,” for any controversy that might happen on the field would have to go unpunished for lack of evidence.
The conference was brought to an end by Bajaj himself, who stated that the AIFF, who had been informed of this committee and all previous press releases would be intimated a set of demands, which are as follows:
1. All remaining I-League games should be broadcasted live.
2. The I-League deserves a better promotion and marketing strategy with better broadcasting.
3. The AIFF needs to recognize the I-League as the national and top league of the country and the ISL as the national cup competition if needed.
4. Going forward, the AIFF should present and implement the AFC’s roadmap for one league in the country.
Bajaj threatened that failure to grant these demands or at least respond to them, on the AIFF’s part by 5th January 2019, would cause him to take legal action against the governing body. He would take up his case in Indian civil courts, FIFA and even at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), if needed. He further elaborated that he is very sure of the evidence that he has with respect to the rules that have been flouted by the AIFF and FSDL.
According to him, FIFA’s rulebook contains clauses 19.1 and 19.2 which prevent any third party interference in the sport in any country. These causes have been defied in this case, so he has the full weight of the legal system to take up the battle against the AIFF and FSDL if they fail to take any action soon.