New Delhi: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia Monday said if only the chit fund scam was unearthed earlier, teams like his United Sikkim would have hired good players on realistic salaries.
Bhutia, who recently took over as chairman of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) technical committee, feels that Kolkata-based I-League clubs were hit hard by the scam as they received huge sums of money from some of the chit fund companies, while clubs outside West Bengal are lucky not to have been affected.
"Luckily, we have stayed away from all this. It`s only the Kolkata clubs that are in trouble," said Bhutia on the sidelines of the Pepsico-AFDP "Kick for Hope" programme launch here.
Kolkata`s United SC were the biggest spenders in the last season with a budget of Rs.17 crore. But United are now facing an uncertain future as their principal sponsor Prayag is one of the 70 chit-fund companies under the scanner of Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
The collapse of the Saradha Group not only affected thousands of investors in West Bengal, but also Kolkata`s two big clubs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Though the chief sponsors of both the clubs is United Breweries, most chit fund companies are their associate sponsors.
The Saradha group had invested Rs.1.8 crore in Mohun Bagan and Rs.3.5 crore in East Bengal since 2010-11. Another chit fund company, Rose Valley, which is also under the government lens, is an associate sponsor of East Bengal. Smaller clubs, playing in the Kolkata League, have also been beneficiaries of the chit fund companies.
Bhutia said it is a disturbing trend and hoped that the new salary structure would be realistic.
"I am sure it is a concern for the football clubs in India and I sincerely hope the exaggerated salaries would come down to a realistic level," he said.
With two games remaining in the I-League season, United Sikkim are at the bottom of the table and staring at relegation to division two.
"Nathan Hall (coach) tried his best. I feel sorry for the players because this is their livelihood. We are hoping for good results in the last two games and that the players stay motivated," said Bhutia.
If you do well at Asian Games, then you get confidence of winning a medal at World Championships.