Punjab FC, earlier known as Minerva Punjab, has seen a change of ownership as lifestyle and wellbeing firm RoundGlass acquired 100 per cent of the stakes from former co-owners Ranjit Bajaj and Henna Singh.
RoundGlass had entered into a 50-50 partnership deal with Bajaj last summer which saw the name of the club being changed from Minerva Punjab FC to Punjab FC. However, within a year, they have taken over the club completely.
Bajaj started the lub from scratch and made it a successful unit - having won every single competitionthey participated in (barring the Super Cup). Now after a eventful ride with the club, he has now parted ways after selling it to a wealthy business house.
Credit must go to Bajaj who has managed to do something which many top business houses couldn’t do in the past in Indian football. Several I-League clubs in the past have bitten the dust after owners were forced to shut shop due to financial losses.
Mahindra United, JCT FC, VIVA Kerala, FC Kochi, Pune FC, Bharat FC, DSK Shivajians, Mumbai FC and more shut down due to a lack of financial viability and to a lesser extent, a proper roadmap.
Goan outfits like Dempo SC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar SC chose to discontinue their senior teams due to their disagreements with the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) roadmap for the future. Dempo and Salgaocar owners Shrinivas Dempo and Dattaraj Salgaocar were a part of the FC Goa ownership but they sold left their stakes after just the first two seasons of the Indian Super League (ISL).
There were also clubs like West Bengal’s United Sports Club and Shillong-based club Rangdajied United FC who failed to pass the national club licensing criteria and were demoted from the I-League. Those clubs too could never make a comeback to the top tier due to financial restraints.
This is where Ranjit Bajaj stands out. Unlike other club owners, Bajaj made his club a successful unit single-handedly under difficult financial circumstances and has ensured that even while he steps away, his club's financial future looks secure. Of course, the deal would have seen his time and effort in the past six years or so made worthwhile.
ISL clubs like FC Goa, Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters have witnessed a change of ownership in the past but never had an I-League saw a change in ownership. So has Mumbai City who have now been taken over by the City Football Group (CFG). FC Pune City were shut down with their right to participate in the ISL transferred to newcomers Hyderabad FC.
Minerva Punjab was formed in 2013 and had enjoyed success from their initial days. It took them just two years to win the Chandigarh State League and step into the I-League second division.
They finished runners-up in their very first appearance in the second division league and got promoted to the I-League in the 2016-17 season.
After a difficult debut season in India’s top tier league, they won the coveted title in just their second appearance in the 2017-18 season.
Not just at the senior level, the Ranjit Bajaj-owned club enjoyed unprecedented success at the youth level too. They have won the U-13 league in 2017, U16 leagues three times in a row from 2015-18 and the U-18 Elite League in 2018.
Ranjit Bajaj, a passionate fan of the sport, will continue to serve Indian football at the grassroots level. He had announced earlier that he has started a new project, World Cup batch 2034, aiming to create the future Indian football stars. In fact, he has already started scouting players starting from U-6 level to U-10.