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Report: I-League clubs Pune FC and Bharat FC likely to shut down operations

Both Pune based clubs are not happy with the returns generated from significant investment and doubt Indian football has a future in terms of revenue for the clubs

Pune FC shut down I-League
Both Pune FC and Bharat FC may pull the plug on their I-League participation in the future

I-League clubs Pune FC and Bharat FC are likely to discontinue their operations, Goal reports. The owners of the clubs based in the Maharashtrian city are understood to be disappointed at the state of affairs in Indian football, especially with regards to the country’s top tier of league football.

While the Indian Super League is gaining popularity, evident from the number of prominent players being signed up by the various franchises for the second season which starts in October, the I-League clubs have been suffering with hardly any revenue being generated. 

Pune FC, owned by Ashok Piramal group, is considered one of the best professionally managed football clubs in the country with special emphasis laid on top class facilities for players, youth development and connecting with their fans. Founded in 2007, they gained promotion to the top tier of Indian football in 2009 and have been ever present in the league since then. 

Bharat FC, meanwhile, made their debut in the I-League last season and is just in their second year of existence. But despite spending heavily, they finished bottom of the table and only avoided relegation as AIFF offers immunity to corporate entities – in this case, Bharat Forge group – who offer long-term support to Indian football. 

Pune clubs don’t see future in Indian football

Despite adhering to the Club Licensing Criterion, which ironically was introduced with the aim of ensuring the financial stability of the clubs, in the long run, both owners feel there is not much of a future for the league. An issue of particular contention has been the TV broadcasting issues where I-League clubs have often complained about not receiving money from the AIFF (All-India Football Federation). 

In 2012, the then Dempo coach Armando Colaco told Firstpost: "AIFF signed the TV deal without consulting all I-League clubs. Secondly, we don't get a penny from broadcast revenues. We're only allowed to put a few advertising boards across the stadium."

The AIFF had suggested that talks are underway with a broadcaster to telecast the 2015/16 I-League season, as reported by Goal.

“If the new broadcaster comes onboard, it will be massively beneficial for the competition as a whole. The I-League needs some serious marketing and good broadcaster,” one club official had said at the time. 

Pune FC to continue with academy

But with no development on the matter, the clubs are seriously thinking of discontinuing their participation in the league. Pune FC, though, is expected to carry on with their academy set-up that focuses on the three age groups – Under-19, Under-17 and Under-15.

Bharat FC are yet to finalise their plans but are expected to reveal their decision when they meet AIFF president Praful Patel in the near future. According to Goal, the situation at the club is desperate with them signing no players for the new season and club CEO Suvrat Thatte resigning from his post. 

The new developments are sure to stir up the I-League vs ISL debate with suggestions from various quarters about the future of the former. AIFF general secretary Kushal Das himself had stated that India will have just one professional league within the next three to five years that will last 8-9 months.

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