PANAJI: I-League champions Chennai City FC and former champions Minerva Punjab FC may be left with little to fight should the All India Football Federation discontinue India’s top-tier league at the moment.
The AIFF has called for an executive committee meeting on July 9 to discuss the way forward for Indian football. There are indications that AIFF will accord top-tier status to Indian Super League (ISL) and relegate the I-League, according to a Member Rights Agreement (MRA) they signed with their marketing partners in 2010.
But while AIFF continues to claim it has “contractual obligations”, existing I-League clubs have joined hands and threatened to drag the federation to court.
Clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Churchill Brothers – with a collective strength of 275 years and multiple titles – have history on their side, but “direct entrants” like Chennai City and Minerva Punjab will find themselves helpless.
According to sources, Chennai and Minerva have a written agreement with the federation – signed before their I-League participation in 2017 – which states, “the club agrees that AIFF shall not be held responsible in any way if the Agreement is terminated in the event I-League ceases to exist or is merged with or reconstituted to form a part of any other league.”
Minerva and Chennai were handed direct entry on the condition that Rs 3 crore would be spent “towards youth development and promotion of the game at the grassroots”.
“I am not denying that there may be such a clause but that does not take away our right (as a club) to fight for a place in the top league. All that we are saying is, ‘show us a pathway to the top’.
“I don’t mind even if we are pushed to the fifth division, but how is it fair that even if we become the champion of a league below ISL, we do not get to move to the top. We were never told about the MRA and AIFF’s compulsions (while signing the agreement). Why would I invest otherwise,” asked Minerva co-owner Ranjit Bajaj.