Kolkata, Nov 24 (IANS) The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is not losing sleep over some Goa clubs having opted out of the I-League, beginning early next year, General Secretary Kushal Das has asserted. Withing days of Sporting Clube de Goa having dropped out for what clubs are calling "lack of vision on the Federation's part", Das told IANS over phone: "So what if Salgaocar or Sporting Clube de Goa have decided not to be part of I-League?
"People should look at the fan following (ISL side) FC Goa has. It's amazing and Salgaocar or a Sporting Clube de Goa have nothing compared to it," Das said. Das was part of the I-League bid evaluation committee which on Wednesday failed to zero in on a direct entry from among the three bidders. The committee has now called for fresh bidding and evaluation.
Besides Sporting Clube, former I-League champions Salgaocar have also decided to opt out of the league. Reports suggest that Dempo SC will also follow suit. Grasping at straws, the AIFF has now decided to retain Aizawl FC despite the Mizoram side having been relegated last season.
Indian football lovers and experts say the game is poised on the precipice -- and the feeling has grown stronger in the wake of such developments.
But Das remained unperturbed and described such people as "negative".
"Look at the new teams that have come in. FC Bardez have a bigger fan following than these clubs. I have seen them in the Goa Pro League. Minerva (Academy FC) have a state-of-the-art academy in Punjab and Chennai City FC also are so enthusiastic. Look at the eight teams in the ISL."
"I really don't know who are these people saying these are dark days for Indian football. People look at everything negatively," Das said dismissivley.
When the likes of Bengaluru FC, the now-defunct Bharat FC or Pune-based DSK Shivajians were handed direct entries to the I-League some years ago, the AIFF asked for a performance bank guarantee of Rs 100 crore if the companies did not have a net worth of Rs 500 crore and above. On top of that there were five-year contracts.
But now with the dwindling number of teams in the league and the proposed revamped roadmap on the horizon where the Indian Super League (ISL) will replace the I-League as the top-tier competition, "maybe the stringent criteria needs to be relaxed", Das said.
"We may have to relax the criteria, mostly financial ones. The stringent bank guarantees are an aspect we will look at, if we can relax it a bit," he said.
"Previously, we used to say a company which has a net worth of Rs 500 crore will be able to bid to have an I-League team. Now they (the three clubs in question) have asked if only bank guarantee (of Rs one crore) is enough."
"The RFP (request for proposal) cannot be changed midway. We have to issue a fresh tender as the tendering terms cannot be altered."
"Maybe, we will look into revised financials and ease the criteria which the clubs want. Since they do not have a longer window now that there are talks of merger, their demand is also fair enough," Das observed.
The committee is expected to meet again on Friday and along with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers India, they will take a call on the future course.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at email@example.com)