Pune FC and Bharat FC could combine to create one club
According to the Times Of India, the two I-League clubs from Pune might combine to into one club for the 2016 I-League campaign. It was earlier understood that the teams were looking to shut down operations and not participate the upcoming I-League season.
“Pune FC and Bharat FC will come together as one team as two teams from Pune are finding it difficult to attract local support. They will meet me next week to decide further steps,” the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel was quoted by The Times Of India.
Chirag Tanna, the director operations at Pune FC kept his cards close to his chest and evaded from revealing anything that was going on behind the scenes in Pune. He said, “At this moment, nothing has been announced. I guess because our pre-season is getting pushed, people must be speculating. I am not aware if someone has said something, but I am not in a position to make any comment.”
Pune FC and Bengaluru FC are the most professionally run clubs in the country right now, with the former being the only club to meet the AFC’s criteria for licencing in the very first try. Since their promotion to the I-League in 2009, Pune have been one of the most consistent teams in the League having never finished below seventh in the league table.
Pune are yet to announce a manager for the upcoming season, but Tanna believes that is down to the fact that most of the players have left for their pre-season training with their respective ISL clubs.
Bharat FC undecided on future as well
Bharat FC were inducted into the I-League as a direct entry which protects them from relegation for a period of three years. Hence even though they finished rock bottom of the I-League they are allowed to participate in the upcoming season with three times I-League winners, Dempo, dropping down a division.
AIFF president Praful Patel has met with officials from Bharat FC twice in the last month and the latter are still undecided on their future in the league. It is widely believed that that it was Praful Patel who convinced Bharat FC to start their own venture in the I-League.
When asked about their take on the current situation, Bharat FC co-owner Kunal Agarwal said, “We should have more clarity in about a month's time. We are meeting the AIFF president soon.”
Whatever happens with the two Pune clubs, this is a serious issue that has been raised. From the looks of the situation it looks like the clubs are unable to break even and now having a cash-rich team in the city in the Indian Super League has split the fan base even further and what the two clubs decide from here might just shape the future of Indian Football.