An initial penalty of 10 lakhs was later increased to 27.5 lakhs on several I-League clubs.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) recently shocked the I-League clubs who had decided to sit out the Super Cup in March, by inflating their fine from an initial 10 lakhs to 27.5 lakhs. Now, the I-League clubs, who are in no position financially to pay the hefty fine, are pondering legal action against the governing body in what could soon turn into an ugly battle.

After getting no confirmation on the future of the I-League due to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) forcing the AIFF to create one top league in India, the I-League clubs boycotted the Super Cup in solidarity last season. While AIFF president Praful Patel’s assurances that he would meet the clubs’ heads to heave their grievances in mid-March did change the clubs’ minds, the apex body’s refusal to restart the competition from the qualifiers for Minerva Punjab, Gokulam Kerala and Aizawl FC irked the I-League clubs’ association.

Due to only Indian Arrows and Chennai City FC participating from the league, Patel was agitated at the Super Cup being made into a farce and consequently he didn’t meet the I-League clubs’ representatives in mid-April as he had promised. Now, the AIFF have put this huge fine on Aizawl, Gokulam, NEROCA FC, East Bengal, Minerva and Churchill Brothers, which the clubs must pay in order to participate in the competition next season.

Gokulam Kerala President VC Praveen expressed his shock at the situation, saying that forcing the I-League clubs, who are already making huge losses, to pay this huge amount is unfair. He told Millenium Post, “We are already losing money in football and then this huge penalty for no fault of us. Infact, this is the only tournament in India that has no participation fee. The club itself has to bear the cost of travel, boarding and other expenses. We will appeal and take legal steps also.”

Moreover, he added, “For participation, they did not pay us anything. We bore all logistical expenses. How will it be possible for us to pay? Even then they are imposing such a huge penalty.”

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Despite all the doubts surrounding the future of the I-League, Praveen is optimistic that the competition will go ahead as usual and stated, “Officially, we have heard that the I-League will happen as usual. In September we will have the Super Cup and in October we will have the I-League.” 

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Meanwhile, an East Bengal official also stated that they’re watching the developments closely and will make their stand known when the right time comes, indicating that the I-League association could fight together against this untimely fine forced upon them by the association.

With NEROCA already having parted ways with the Classic Group of Hotels and their I-League future itself being in serious doubt due to a lack of investors, a hefty fine like this could be too much for them to bear. Even the other clubs will be at a huge loss bearing this fine and a formidable statement can be expected from the I-League clubs’ association once we move into next season.