Why are Indian clubs reluctant to take part in AFC Cup?
The champions of the I-League and the winners of the Federation Cup get India’s two automatic spots in the AFC Cup, the second tier of continental Asian club football competition. But in recent times, Indian clubs have become reluctant to participate. Clubs mention the financial burden of continental competition as the main reason in their reluctance to participate. The Asian Football Confederation does not pay enough according to Indian clubs to sustain their AFC Cup campaigns while the AFC clearly states that it only covers basic costs and the rest would have to be generated by the clubs through gates, TV rights and other methods.
This season things have gone to such extent that at one stage, Dempo SC (I-League champions) and East Bengal Club (Federation Cup winners) were both considering to opt out of the AFC Cup due to the financial implications. Dempo also face an additional challenge due to the lack of an appropriate ground in Goa with the Nehru Stadium in Margao set to undergo renovation in early-2013.
East Bengal are now set to participate after sorting out the finances, while Dempo have opted out and are set to be replaced by another Goan side Churchill Brothers SC, who like them, would be facing similar venue problems with having to play their AFC Cup home matches in Pune.
It is interesting to note that a few seasons back, Indian clubs were pushing the AIFF to ensure that the I-League champions could play in the prestigious AFC Champions League, but do the clubs realise that only success at the continental stage and proper marketing would generate revenues at this level. Falling back on federation and government does not help at this extremely professional level.