Kolkata: In the aftermath of the telecast row, the I-League (Private) Clubs Association on Sunday threatened the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that if their primary demand of broadcasting all matches are not met by one week, they will move court and even approach the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) seeking justice.
Led by champions’ Minerva Punjab FC, five other clubs (Chennai City FC, Neroca FC, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC, and Shillong Lajong FC) laid out their demands after the tournament’s official broadcaster, Star Sports, recently announced that it will cut the television coverage to just 30 of the 61 matches remaining in the season.
While Mohun Bagan are the only side who could see all their matches shown on television, defending champions Minerva Punjab FC were the worst-hit, and newcomers Real Kashmir FC will be partially affected.
Real Kashmir, who were initially part of the association, were conspicuous by their absence and it was not clear if they had pulled out or not.
City giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan stayed away, saying they did not receive any communication. Bajaj alleged that they will be part of the Indian Super League (ISL) and do not want to upset their mandarins.
The association, which had previously written a mail to AIFF president Praful Patel without getting a reply, will again write to the parent body stating that if their demands are not met, they will take action after January 5.
“We demand that all matches of the I-League must be broadcast with equal if not better quality than the ISL. If the first demand is met by 5th and all matches are back on TV, we can work towards an amicable solution. But if it’s not, we will have no option but to move court,” Ranjit Bajaj told reporters at a press conference held at a plush hotel here.
The I-League (Private) Clubs Association, formed in October this year, also demanded that a unified league based solely on merit and with promotion and relegation takes place, and the AIFF acts like an independent body and not be controlled by any private organisation.
Bajaj alleged the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), promoters of ISL and the apex body’s commercial and marketing partners, runs the show.
“We demand they detach themselves from third party interference at the earliest as it is against the regulations of FIFA article 19.1 and 19.2,” said Bajaj who also represented northeast outfits Neroca, Aizawl and Lajong.
Chennai City operations officer Arvindan Vijay Kumar and Gokulam Kerala CEO Ashok Kumar Balakrishnan were present besides Bajaj and his wife Henna, who is the director of Minerva.
“We will be forced to approach the civil courts of India, CAS and FIFA if we don’t get a reply,” Bajaj said.
Scathing in his criticism, Bajaj opined that the organisers of the ISL were scared of I-League’s rising popularity and high TV ratings and therefore decided to “kill it”.
“This is a fight for our survival. If we don’t speak now, we will be dead,” Bajaj said.
“We will support them (Minerva) in the movement. The ISL is a circus and the clubs are mere participants. They never had any identity,” Ashok Kumar Balakrishnan said.
The federation general secretary Kushal Das, who Bajaj said, promised verbally to telecast all matches before the start of the league, did not respond to calls.