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Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar pull out of I-League

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© Facebook - Salgoacar FC

Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar pull out of I-League

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Arun S Kaimal


Goan clubs Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar on Friday announced their withdrawal from the I-League for the upcoming seasons. The clubs pointed to the AIFF’s proposal about the three-tier football system, in which the ISL will be the top league in the country, as the reason for the exit.

In a meeting between the AIFF and their marketing partners IMG-Reliance last month, the governing body presented the new roadmap declaring ISL as the top league in the country, followed by League 1(the I-League), and League 2, starting from November next year.

With no promotion and relegation in the ISL, the clubs who are not in the top division will find it difficult to sustain themselves. Several clubs have expressed their reservations against the proposal, and are blaming the “new roadmap” for their exit, Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar announced their decision to withdraw from the I-League in a joint press release.

“On May 17th, 2016, the AIFF (All India Football Federation) called for a meeting of all stakeholders of football in India, asking for “participation in propelling Indian football forward.” Agenda papers, which form the basis for any meeting or discussion, were never circulated. The expectation was for this to be a vital first step in developing a comprehensive roadmap for improving the state of football in India.

“At this meeting a detailed proposal was presented, which is heavily biased against the I-League and its clubs. Not only does it relegate the I-League to a second tier league, but also does away with promotion, thereby replacing merit with a franchisee fee as the primary criteria for participating in the top league.

“The ISL, hitherto termed as only a tournament by the AIFF, would leapfrog the I-League to become the nation’s top league, with no relegation. This was shocking and disheartening, especially considering the repeated claims made by representatives of AIFF and FIFA that the I-League was the premier league competition in the country.

“Subsequently, this presentation was circulated and comments and suggestions were asked for. A fresh start, taking all stakeholders into confidence, was requested in order to come up with a comprehensive re-formulated plan via a transparent and democratic process. These suggestions were sent over a month ago by multiple stakeholders. The lack of response from the AIFF is telling, and makes it clear that the fate of the world’s most popular sport in the world’s second most populous nation would be decided unilaterally.

“We therefore have no option but to believe that the AIFF will enforce the May 17th proposal, which would promote the ISL to the nation’s premier tournament with a “pay to play” franchisee model with no promotion or relegation. Furthermore, it guarantees the winner of the ISL representation at the AFC level, with the other available spot going to the winner of a tournament that again is heavily skewed in favour of ISL franchisees.

“This effectively removes any incentive for a club team to participate in the restructured I-League, given that monetary incentives were never a contributing factor. The lack of the latter was ensured by the AIFF, who unfairly sold the rights to the I-League without consulting all its stakeholders. Remarkably, while demanding professionalism and fiscal responsibility from I-League clubs without itself reflecting the same, the AIFF has still not settled dues to I-League clubs dating as far back as 2008.

“The contribution of Goa and its clubs to football in India cannot be overstated. Goan clubs, past and present, have won more I-League titles amongst them than all other states combined. Over the past few weeks, Salgaocar Football Club and Sporting Clube de Goa have had several rounds of discussions and have deliberated the impact that the May 17th proposal will have on the state of the sport. It is clear that the proposal is highly discriminatory, goes against sporting merit, is unworkable for I-League clubs and hampers Goa, which is the best-represented state in the I-League, the most.

“Therefore, rather than waiting for another year to face the inevitable, Salgaocar Football Club and Sporting Clube de Goa have decided to take the painful decision to withdraw from the forthcoming edition of the I-League. However, it must be noted that their commitment to the sport of football will not waver, the efforts towards youth development will continue with ever increasing vigour, and their dedication towards the improvement of football in Goa remains resolute, “ said a joint press release from both teams.

Also read: Does the AIFF's 3-tier plan actually signal a turn for the better in Indian football?

The Flaming Oranje, who finished fourth in the I-League last season, were founded in 1990. The club finished as the runners-up in the I-League, known as the National Football League at that time, back in the 2004-05 season before doing the same in the Federation Cup in 2005, 2006 and 2013-14.

Salgaocar was founded in 1956 by VM Salgaocar, founder President of the VM Salgaocar Group of Companies. The club won the National Football League, now known as I-League, back in 1998–99, 2010–11 and also finished as the runners-up in 2002-03. They won the Federation Cup in 1988, 1989, 1997, and 2011. They had finished seventh in the nine-team I-League last year.

With two more clubs out of I-League, India’s top-division league currently only has seven teams in it. 

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