I-League 2018-19: Clubs happy with AIFF’s call to stream matches on Facebook

Minerva Punjab was the worst affected team after the recent Star Network announcement
Minerva Punjab was the worst affected team after the recent Star Network announcement

I-League clubs hailed All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) proposal to live stream matches that will not be telecast on TV channels. Though nothing has been finalised, the proposal comes as a breath of fresh air for the I-League clubs, who strongly protested the decision of the official broadcaster.

On December 23, I-League broadcaster Star Sports announced that they will show only 30 from the remaining 60 matches from December 29. After their poor coverage in the previous matches, this came as a death-knell for many I-League clubs, who have been garnering support each day with their performances.

The move invited strong criticism and protest from all the corners, with clubs and fans venting their anger on social media. Many termed it as a death sentence for I-League, which is still the ‘top division league in the country’. Being the prime target, Star Sports received severe backlash, with fans calling to boycott the channel.

AIFF too wasn’t spared. Their silence angered clubs, who said the move was an attempt to give Indian Super League more coverage and kill the I-League. Several I-League clubs formed an association and called for a meeting with the AIFF governing body.

Under pressure from all the corners, AIFF said a few days ago that they were kept in dark by the broadcasters before taking the decision. Finally, AIFF officials came with a proposal on Friday.

For live streaming, popular social media site Facebook is one of the avenues considered by AIFF. But they are also looking to rope in streaming partners like myCujoo. But no final decision has been taken yet.

Earlier this year, LaLiga partnered with Facebook and announced that they will live stream all the matches in the Indian subcontinent on the social media site. The Spanish top division tournament, which is very popular in this region, faced strong criticisms from the fans. Under pressure, they agreed to telecast some selected matches on TV.

However, I-League clubs are not opposing the decision at all. For them, at least fans will have a chance to see their team play, whatever the medium is. Almost all the clubs have a huge fan following on social media and this comes as a breather for them.

Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj, who led the protest from the front against Star Sports, supported the move but said the I-League matches deserve to be telecast on the TV rather than on Facebook Live. Minerva faced the worst hit as only one of their remaining matches will be shown on TV.

“At least they have heard our call. I was not even expecting this. To me, it’s not fair that the ISL matches will be shown on HD and ours on social media. But at least the fans will get a chance to follow the matches of their team,” Bajaj said to Sportskeeda.

Chennai City owner Rohit Ramesh, who has also been vocal after the decision, said, “We have not received any information regarding this as of now. But something is better than nothing. The fans, that are following their teams passionately, should deserve to see the team play. For me, this is a good move.”

NEROCA FC coach Manuel Retamero Fraile too sounded optimistic. “You saw how many fans came to see our match against Mohun Bagan. They should follow their team on away matches too. So for me, this is good for the fans.”

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Edited by Raunak J
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