Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj on Tuesday called the All India Football Federation (AIFF) a "silent killer" and said the sole purpose of the sporting body is to destroy the I-League and its participating clubs.
Known for criticising the parent body, which often lands him in trouble, Bajaj said: "The game plan is clear. The federation's disciplinary committee is yet to announce its verdict on I-League clubs' non-participation in Super Cup (in April) even a fortnight after hearing out the clubs.
"AIFF President Praful Patel promised to meet the clubs. It never happened. The federation has not even found time to spell out the plans for the coming season -- no one knows whether there will be one league or two leagues.
"There is no clarity on who will be the official broadcasters. All these things are being done with the sole purpose of making all stakeholders in the I-League, including club sponsors, nervous and vulnerable."
The Minerva Punjab owner said that the AIFF's plan is to finish off the I-League clubs. "I am sorry to say AIFF is behaving like a silent killer. Over the years, 24 clubs have closed down but no one bothered.
"This way many more clubs will follow the same route. The federation will run the show with eight or 10 outfits. To become a member of that exclusive club, you will be needed to pay hefty franchise fees," Bajaj told IANS.
Asked on the disciplinary committee decision, a senior AIFF official said it will come in due course. "The Committee will examine all legalities before announcing the verdict. It cannot be rushed," the official said.
Bajaj said the uncertainties are creating a negative impact. "The sponsors, the footballers, the officials... no one knows what will happen with the I-League.
"Is it the main league or effectively the second division as suggested in some quarters? They talked about future roadmap, now they can't even tell up what's going to happen this coming season. Is it being done on purpose?" Bajaj asked.
"If we raise questions, they allege we are trying to malign them. We are only seeking our rights and want to be heard as stakeholders in Indian football," he said.
"If I-League is forcefully relegated, many clubs will be forced to shut down due to lack of sustainability. Sponsors and broadcasters will back off. As a result, there will be less and less players coming forward from each state and region. Football fans from across the country will turn away from Indian football.
"I-League clubs will soon be counted among endangered species," said Bajaj.
(Jaydeep Basu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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