New Delhi: Hero I-League champions 2018-19 Chennai City Football Club have issued an official statement regarding the entire controversy surrounding the rumours that the Indian Super League (ISL) is set to be given the top division football league status with the I-League getting demoted or discontinued.
Chennai City FC, who are set to play in the AFC Cup next season as the 'Champions of India', have said that while they do not want to react to the rumours, the fact that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has not denied the rumours "has been appalling".
Chennai City FC were not part of the I-League clubs' meeting in New Delhi on Monday after which seven clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC, NEROCA and Gokulam Kerala FC - released a joint statement saying that they will not accept being told that "I-League will no longer be the TOP LEAGUE" and if AIFF takes such a decision in their Executive Committee meeting on July 3, 2019, they are ready to approach "Appropriate Courts for relief".
In response to the I-League clubs' threat, AIFF said it was "premature" for anyone to judge the actions of the federation beforehand. They further warned the I-League clubs to refrain from publicly maligning the federation.
Chennai City FC were also not a part of the Super Cup 2019 boycott, where the above mentioned seven I-League clubs decided not to play following AIFF's decision to not restart the tournament from the qualifiers.
Eight I-League clubs, including Chennai City FC, had written a letter to AIFF president Praful Patel in February asking him for a meeting to discuss their future and share their inhibitions regarding the involvement of AIFF's Commercial Partners Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) into Indian footballing matters.
When AIFF did not respond, Minerva, Gokulam and Aizawl did not play the Super Cup qualifiers after which AIFF general secretary Kushal Das informed them that Patel will meet them between April 10-14. It is at this time that I-League clubs had asked for the tournament to be re-started but AIFF denied.
Seven I-League clubs pulled out but not Chennai City FC - they went semi-finals where they lost to eventual winners FC Goa 3-0.
It is for the first time since then that Chennai City FC have decided to speak publicly on the raging controversy.
"We wish to gently remind the National Federation, that as the current I-League champions, we have been neither consulted not approached formally by the AIFF into a discussion with regard to the decision which we are informed will be announced post the AIFF Executive Committee meeting on July 3rd 2019," Chennai City FC said in their statement.
In their statement, Chennai City FC mentioned the controversial Masters Rights Agreement (MRA) agreement between AIFF and IMG-Reliance, according to which ISL is to be made the top league of the country.
Chennai also reminded AIFF that they are yet to receive the prize money for winning the I-League. "We humbly remind you sir that as on this day, we are yet to receive the Prize Money from the AIFF for winning the 2018-19 I-League season and that any decision with regard to dissolve the I-League does not absolve the National Federation's obligation from paying our Club the deserving Prize Money," the statement read.
They asked AIFF for a special invitation to the above mentioned Executive Committee meeting for all I-League clubs or at least themselves as the "Champions of the I-League".
Here is the full text of the official letter by Chennai City FC:
Mr. Kushal Das
All India Football Federation
SUB: SPECIAL INVITATION TO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING ON JULY 3rd, 2019
We, Chennai City Football Club write to you today with regard to the numerous news stories and articles published both in print and digital which overwhelmingly indicate that an act is impending on behalf of the National Federation to alter the current footballing structure in the country.
Like any responsible sporting organization, we do not wish to comment or reply to rumours, however the lack of denial from the side of All India Football Federation in this regard has been appalling.
We wish to gently remind the National Federation, that as the current I-League champion, we have been neither consulted not approached formally by the AIFF into a discussion with regard to the decision which we are informed will be announced post the AIFF Executive Committee meeting on July 3rd 2019.
The decision as mentioned above, refers to the AIFF's obligation under its Masters Rights Agreement (MRA) to allot the Indian Super League (a New League conceptualised, owned and promoted by Football Sports Development Limited) as the top national league in India while simultaneously choosing to either temporarily or permanently discontinue the I-League competition. We believe such a decision, if made, even under excessive external compulsion would do more harm than good for the future of the game of football in out country.
While through media reports we have informed of the clause in the MRA whereby AIFF warrants that the Company shall have full and unfettered right and ability to establish the New League as the most senior and prestigious football league in India and that the existing I-League may, as a result of the introduction of the New League, be constituted, replaced and/or discontinued (temporarily or permanently)... Clause 5.25 (Page 17).
We are also aware about Clause 4.6 (Page 13) which following your possible pending decision to make ISL the top league, eventually diverts the AIFF's budget for conducting the I-League in terms of Travel Subsidy and Prize Money to the ISL Central Revenue Pool.
We humbly remind you sir that as on this day, we are yet to receive the Prize Money from the AIFF for winning the 2018-19 I-League season and that any decision with regard to dissolve the I-League does not absolve the National Federation's obligation from paying our Club the deserving Prize Money.
At this point on behalf of all I-League clubs we also humbly would like to inform you sir that we have never played the I-League in the expectation of earning profits from wining the I-League. The Travel Subsidy and Prize Money together are a definite cushion to our burdening expenses, however, not the penultimate deciding factor. For out brother Clubs such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have proudly survived for a century and more, in conditions and times for less favourable than ours and we too believe with your support and sound judgement all I-League clubs will be able to do so as well in the present.
We are aware of the difficulties and the legal entanglements you find yourself in, which is why we implore the National Federation to offer to meet the I-League clubs to discuss the roadmap and way forward with the consultation of your Commercial Rights Holders.
Hence, we request you to grant us special invitation to the scheduled Executive Committee meeting on July 3rd, 2019 either collectively (all I-League club owners present) or individually, as the current Champions of the I-League.
We reaffirm that at this moment, we are open to all discussion with the National Federation and Commercial Rights Holders to understand the proposed structure ahead for Indian Football.
It is imperative that we inform you that any decision you take in this regard not only affects 10 football clubs and their owners, but over 300 registered professional football players, more than 200 qualified technical and support staff, countless aspiring young coaches and volunteers and numerous young boys across the country who hope for a platform to showcase their potential.
We anticipate your positive reply in this matter.
For Chennai City Football Club
CC: Mr. Praful Patel
Mrs. Nita Ambani
Chairperson, Football Sports Development Limited