The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) decision to increase the penalty on I-League clubs for their non-participation in the Super Cup from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 27.5 lakh as come as a shocker for the clubs. Having already made their haplessness known at the earlier fine imposed, the clubs have made it clear that they are in no position to pay the increased sum. Aizawl FC, NEROCA FC, Gokulam Kerala, Churchill Brothers, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab have been asked to bear the cost for boycotting the games in addition to paying the initial fine of Rs 10 lakh. This has seen the figure rise to Rs 27,70,135, but AIFF decided to round it off to Rs 27.5 lakh.

Speaking to IANS, Gokulam FC president V.C. Praveen expressed his disappointment saying that clubs are already losing money in Indian football and to now ask the clubs to pay this huge penalty is nothing short of unfair. “We are already losing money in football and then this huge penalty for no fault of us. In fact, this is the only tournament in India that has no participation fee. The club itself has to bear the cost of travel, boarding and other expenses. We will appeal and take legal steps also.

“For participation, they did not pay us anything. We bore all logistical expenses. How will it be possible for us to pay? Even then they are imposing such a huge penalty,” he rued. While there are also doubts on the future of the I-League, Praveen is optimistic that the tournament will take place this season and the team is going ahead with recruitment. “Officially we have heard that the I-League will happen as usual. In September we will have the Super Cup and in October we will have the I-League,” he said.

But Praveen is wary that the Indian Super League (ISL) could soon become the number one tournament in the country and the I-League could lose its position as the primary league in India. “Why will the good players (foreigners) be interested in playing in the lower division clubs?” he enquired. When asked if questions were bound to do the rounds regarding the intention of the AIFF, Praveen said: “Killing football.” While some of the other clubs are tight lipped about the development, a senior East Bengal official told IANS: “We are watching closely and will make our stand known once the time comes.”