The All India Football Federation (AIFF) demoted three I-League teams – Churchill Brothers, Rangdajied United and United SC from the country’s premier league for failing to meet the Club Licensing criteria. These conditions were set in accordance to the guidelines set by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Asia’s highest football body.
In the club licensing meeting, which took place in Delhi on Wednesday, only 7 of the participating 14 teams qualified all the criteria.
“Bengaluru FC, Dempo SC, Pune FC, Salgaocar SC, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Sporting Clube de Goa were the only teams that fulfilled all the criteria as laid out by the AIFF, “ said committee chairman Dr Girija Mungali. “Two other teams, however, passed the conditions to be awarded the national certificate – Shillong Lajong and Mumbai FC.”
Five teams failed to qualify – Churchill, Rangdajied, United, Mohammedan Sporting and Royal Wahingdoh. Of these team, Mohammedan Sporting had already been relegated after the 2013-14 season of the I-League. The committee, however, decided to give the Sikkim-based Wahingdoh a second chance.
“Despite qualifying for the I-League only in May, Wahingdoh has done exceptionally well to meet the criteria and have only just missed out. Thus we have decided to give them a one year extension to fulfill them,” said Dr Mungali.
This decision, though seemingly harsh, was the next logical step after the AIFF gave all the teams a one-year extension in 2013. Last year, only Pune FC cleared all the conditions laid.
“If we do not take the call regarding the teams, there is a risk r that the AFC may take away the two spots reserved for Indian clubs in the AFC Cup. There is a greater danger that the AFC may de-recognise the I-League,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said.
One of the criteria that all the clubs have failed is the signing of a marquee player. Many clubs have pointed to a foreign player and have labeled him the marquee signing. However, the AFC definition of the term is different. The AFC has defined a marquee signing as somebody who has represented his country at a FIFA-approved continental competition.
Thus, Rangdajied United’s Ranti Martins, despite his great successes in the I-League and his hefty pay package, does not qualify as a marquee player as he has not represented Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations. However, Shillong Lajong’s Cornell Glen does qualify as the same, having represented Trinidad in the World Cup.
All the clubs have still the option of appealing the decision of the AIFF, to be done within seven working days. However, the AIFF has a history of being firm over dismissals – previously, Air India and ONGC have been expelled for not complying with norms.
Meanwhile, the AIFF has invited corporates to form their own I-League team, looking at the Japanese model with the J-League, with unconfirmed sources saying atleast 3 multinationals have applied for the license to participate in the I-League next season. The last day for submission of the tenders for all new clubs is June 30.