New Delhi: Financial crisis has compelled one of India's oldest clubs, Mohammedan Sporting to withdraw from second division football as well as the Durand Cup scheduled to start on October 28 in Goa.
“We don’t have a sponsor for the last two years. EMTA was our title sponsor but they haven’t paid a penny since 2012-13. We (officials) have been running the show with money from our own pocket. Now the pockets are running dry,” Sporting’s assistant general secretary Raju Ahmed, was quoted saying by a leading national daily.
“We had our executive committee meeting on October 18 and decided to call time. We approached several companies and well-wishers but didn’t get a positive response. We have 2,000 life members and they pay a one-time fee of Rs 15,000. Annual members (4,800) pay Rs 516 per year. This is our only source of income which is not enough to build a team to take part in major tournaments. No more football this term. Next season we will play only the Calcutta Football League if the situation doesn’t get better.
But I want to make it very clear that we are not disbanding our team. We can’t do it, for this is a supporter-based club,” he added.
“The AIFF doesn’t pay the clubs to play in the second division I-League. According to them, we also didn’t comply with the AFC club licensing guidelines to be eligible for the first division. We’ve been wronged but the reality is that we won’t be allowed to play in the top tier even if we win the second division league. So what’s the point?” he said.
Mohammedan Sporting's budget was trimmed down from Rs 8 crore to Rs 3.5 crore after their relegation from top flight football.
The club, founded in 1891 has not been able to pay salaries to their players for the past three months, which has resulted in them not training since the Calcutta League got over mid-September.
The Kolkata-based club is famous for having a huge support base and is one of the most popular clubs in India.
A worrying trend seems to be developing in Indian club football that has seen the likes of JCT and Mahindra United disband their teams.
With the advent of the Indian Super League, serious doubts have been raised whether the AIFF would be in favor of continuing with the I-Legaue in the long run.
However, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke reaffirmed the AIFF's commitment to India's premier domestic football competition.
With this latest jolt to club football in India, AIFF will once again have to reassure club owners and fans about the commercial viability of domestic football.