I-League clubs form association to fight for rights

Mumbai: Concerned over the shutting down of two long-running football clubs, Mahindra United and JCT over the last couple of years and the lack of a proper revenue model, 12 I-League club owners met here on Saturday to float the Indian Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA).

IPFCA to be formed under the Society Registration Act 1860, would be funded by member clubs.

Among its main objectives are safeguarding common interests of the clubs, popularising the I-League and helping to make it sustainable and profitable, club owners told reporters .

"We love Indian football and have invested in it. The club owners met together for the first time today to discuss various concerns. We have been promised that a proper revenue model and a road map would be given to us on April 30 by the AIFF and IMG-Reliance (AIFF`s marketing partners)when we met them on February 21," Nandan Piramal who owns Pune FC said.

"There is no revenue model currently and we all spend around Rs 15 crore individually (Rs 150 crore combined). Assuming we get Rs 50 lakh each through travel subsidy, food allowance and stay, all we get is Rs 7 crore combined. How long can we sustain our clubs, that`s the concern," said Piramal.

Piramal said that though Mahindra United and JCT, strongly backed by two corporates, have folded up over the last few years, no effort has been made by the Federation to find out what prompted these two leading clubs so shut shop.

"We are not wanting returns tomorrow, but we need a long term revenue model, over three or five years. We have been promised by AIFF-IMG Reliance that we would be given a road map on April 20. Let`s see what comes out of it," said Piramal.

Another leading club owner, Shivanand Salgaocar, said that "passion (for football) alone cannot drive the clubs. We can`t go on like this and are concerned that more clubs may follow Mahindra United and JCT."

Piramal said the federation and its marketing partners "have been very receptive to our ideas," but the club owners felt the need to separate the I-League from the other properties of the AIFF like Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy and the national football teams.

"We want a separate legal entity for I-League which should be independent of the Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy and national team," he said.

Debashish Dutta of Mohun Bagan said that the clubs wanted to be partners of I League on the lines of the Leagues in other parts of the world.

"You see all the leagues in the world, there are three partners - the federation, its marketing partner and the clubs. We want to be partners of Indian football," he said.

Piramal said that one of the things the clubs wanted was to see the development of a proper division 2 I-League, under-19 and under-17 leagues.

The clubs represented at the meeting were Kingfisher East Bengal, McDowells Mohun Bagan, Prayag United SC, Salgaocar SC, Dempo SC, Sporting Clube de Goa, Chirag Kerala, Mumbai FC, Air India SC and Shillong Lajong FC, Pune FC.

Churchill Brothers club representatives could not attend, but offered total support to the decisions and the formation of the IPFCA, it was announced.

Two other I-League clubs - Pailan Arrows and HAL, did not attend the meet.

It was also proposed that the registered office of the IPFCA will be the Pune FC office.