I-League champions Minerva Punjab could face AIFF sanctions for Super Cup 2018 pullout
After I-League champions Minerva Punjab claimed to have pulled out of the inaugural edition of the Super Cup, a decision that sent shockwaves around the Indian footballing community.
Minerva, who had only started playing in the I-League from the 2016/17 season, went on to shock everyone by claiming their maiden league title in just their second season in the league.
After the league, the Chandigarh-based side was set to play the Super Cup, to which they got direct qualification, owing to their position on the league table. However, club owner Ranjit Bajaj had revealed that his side has already pulled out of the cup competition.
“We’ve pulled out of Super Cup already. After winning the league, in this tournament, if you lose just one match, you are out. There’s no point in playing the Cup. Just because everyone’s playing, it’s become a knockout. Basically, we will have to pay two months of salaries to all the players and it can be just for one match,” he had told Sportskeeda on Monday.
However, AIFF denied the claims that the I-League champions had pulled out of the country's premier cup competition, saying that the federation has received a letter from Minerva, which stated the club's reservations regarding the Super Cup.
"They have not communicated anything officially to us about the pull-out. They have only sent us a letter stating that there are financial issues in terms of playing the Super Cup," AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told Sportskeeda on Tuesday. "(They've asked) If the AIFF can give them some financial subsidies for playing the Super Cup. They had also categorically mentioned that they would like to play the Super Cup."
Every year, the AIFF pays each club a fixed amount for their participation the league and the cup events. The mount for the same last season (I-League and Federation Cup) was Rs 45 lakh.
"This year, the amount has been increased to Rs 70 lakh for the ISL or the I-League and the Super Cup. So I can't understand what he is trying to imply," said Das.
Another issue that Bajaj had raised about the Super Cup being held after the end of the league competitions is that the club would have to pay its players for an additional couple of months, when in reality, they might play just one match in this duration, if they lose their first round of the cup competition.
However, the AIFF general secretary claimed that all the clubs are bound to sign their players until the end of May.
"As far as the players are concerned, all of them have a contract till May 31. That is a FIFA regulation. These contracts can be terminated with mutual consent only. So when he talks about paying the players for another two months, I really don't know what he's implying because it is recorded in the AIFF's systems, that all the contracts are till 31st May," said Das.
Is there a set prize money for the Super Cup?
After claiming that his club pulled out of the Super Cup, Ranjit Bajaj also told SK that one factor that influenced the club authorities to take this step is that the AIFF had not specified any prize money for the event.
"They've mentioned that you have to pay for everything, and all the fines will still be applicable. And trophies and medals will be given to the winners and runners-up, along with the prize money, but they've not specified how much," said Bajaj. "Basically, there are prizes, but they've not mentioned any money."
When questioned about this issue, the AIFF general secretary revealed that a cumulative prize money of Rs 40 lakh has been set (Rs 25 lakh for the winners and Rs 15 lakh for the runners-up) for the Super Cup.
Minerva could face sanctions for boycotting the Super Cup
While the water still seems murky with the two parties (AIFF and Minerva Punjab) providing two versions of the story, the I-League champions could indeed land themselves in a soup with the AIFF, if they do indeed decide to pull out.
Das said that the AIFF will send a letter to Minerva, explaining the financial integrities of the Super Cup. However, if the club still decides to pull out, the AIFF might take certain steps against the I-League champions.
"There is the AIFF disciplinary code to look into. The rules and regulations of the AIFF are applicable to all the member associations and their affiliated units. Those issues have to be analysed, and then we'll see what is to be done," said Das.
There was a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding the Super Cup for the majority of the season. However, even after the AIFF announced the draw for the main event of the competition, it is not yet clear whether the winners of the top division league in the country will play in the top cup competition.