Chennai City FC players celebrate the win vs Gokulam. Get highlights of the Chennai City FC vs Gokulam Kerala FC (CCFC vs GKFC) I-League match below (Pic: AIFF).
After five seasons of being undermined, by the newly-formed Indian Super League, India’s national league clubs finally decided they had enough. The last straw came the form of an innocuous email listing the remaining Hero I-League games that the rights holder, Star Sports, had decided to broadcast. As many as 30 games between Dec. 28 and the end of the season have been excluded from this broadcast schedule. (Get highlights of the Chennai City FC vs Gokulam Kerala FC (CCFC vs GKFC) I-League match below).
A wide cross-section of stakeholders responded to this news by criticising the All India Football Federation, its commercial partner FSDL (a joint venture between Reliance and Star India) and the broadcaster, Star Sports. The most powerful statement came from club owners operating in the framework of the I-League. Seven clubs, including reigning champions Minerva Punjab FC and past winners Aizawl FC, formed the I-League (Private) Clubs Association. The clubs represent footballing interests from regions where football is widely played and enjoys a mass fanbase as well. Real Kashmir, Shillong Lajong, Neroca, Chennai City FC and Gokulam Kerala are the other founding members of the association.
Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj is, in consistence with his normally vocal stance on the state of the sport in India, one of the most vocal members of the association. Bajaj has unequivocally stated that the move to drop these 30 games is the latest in a concerted effort by the decision makers to destroy the I-League from within. “We all produce players and they want to kill the product,” a despairing Bajaj old the press. “We will die and cease to exist if we stop fighting.” The association called on the AIFF to resolve the issue by Jan. 5, 2018. Failing this they will approach civil courts in India and, potentially, FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (an independent institution based in Lausanne that aims to facilitate resolution of disputes in sport). In response, the AIFF has so far passed the buck on to the broadcast and commercial partners, saying it has only a limited say in these matters. The federation went on to say that clubs had been warned about this possibility if they failed to draw sizeable crowds for games and/or if the grounds “didn’t look good on TV”. The concession—that the dropped games will be streamed live on the internet through Reliance’s Jio TV and Star India’s Hotstar portals.
Today’s fixture between Chennai City and Gokulam is, as per Star’s listings update issued on Dec. 31, not listed for live telecast. So we thought it the best way to kick-off our brand new football live blogs while also acting as an impartial quality control mechanism. Stay with us for regular updates through the game including insider inputs on why this broadcast mess happened in the first place and what its implications are.