Terming the Goan clubs’ decision unfortunate, I-League CEO Dhar points out lack of strong fan base as one of the reasons for their exit.
Bengaluru: Sporting Clube de Goa’s decision to join Salgaocar in pulling out of the forthcoming I-League season has set off seismic waves in the landscape of Indian football. With Dempo SC sitting on the fence with their finger on the pulse, it only adds to the unrest.
There are just seven confirmed teams set to participate currently in the I-League, which could potentially be devoid of any Goan representation.
While things look bleak for India’s top division ahead of the restructuring process, which would see the Indian Super League, I-League and its lower leagues cumulatively structured into three divisions, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar hinted that Sporting had jumped the gun by pulling out.
“It’s unfortunate. We were talking to everyone about the restructuring of Indian football. Nothing was finalised. Everyone was kept in the loop regarding the development. But they didn’t want to wait that long,” said Dhar on Thursday.
“The unfortunate thing is that clubs like Salgaocar and Sporting have contributed a lot to Indian football and now they have taken this decision. But, life must go on.”
Dhar also stated that there has been a decreasing trend in attendance at the stadiums in Goa over the past couple of years.
“Unfortunately, the turnout is going down in Goa. It was not the case 5-7 years back. It’s not that the Goans have suddenly stopped liking football, because we see that the FC Goa matches (in the ISL) is sold out, but there are hardly any fans for a Sporting or a Salgaocar match.”
“We have spoken to them (the I-League clubs in Goa) that they need to introspect and see what’s wrong. I am sure if they had the kind of fan base of East Bengal or Mohun Bagan or Bengaluru FC, they couldn’t have pulled out of the league,” he said, adding that viewership and attendance had been on the rise at other venues.
Following Sporting Clube de Goa’s exit, the AIFF official said teams from other parts of the country were looking to get entry to the I-League. “It’s good to see that three new teams have shown interest in being a part of the I-League.
“And now that we’ve extended the deadline to December 8, I am pretty sure that we will get more bids. The best part is that we’re getting bids from new places like Punjab and Chennai.
“That’s in sync with our aim to expand the game,” he revealed citing the restructuring of the league is why they have called for fresh tender since the previous documents were based on a five-year plan.
“We are looking at a scenario where we would have common league in a year or two.
“So now the contract will be in such a manner that until the I-League stays, the team will be a part of the league, and later, if the team can fulfil the norms of the then premier league, they can ply their trade there or they will be a part of League 1,” he remarked.
The I-League official brushed aside suggestions that the new teams would not have enough time to get their team and staff in order by the time the league starts on January 7.
“The ISL is done by December 18 and then you can approach the players. And moreover, the bids that we have received are from teams that are already in existence and want to go a step ahead and play in the I-League. So, I don’t think it would be a big problem,” he stressed.