Selective telecast of I-League matches causes furore

The official broadcaster Star Sports' decision to broadcast live only select 30 matches in the second half of I-League has raised concerns among some of the club owners.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has laid the blame squarely on the I-League clubs.   -  Nissar Ahmad

A day after Star Sports announced that it will telecast select 30 matches of the remainder of the I-League season from December 29, several teams went up in arms against the decision of the official broadcaster alleging the latter of giving them a short-shrift.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) laid the blame squarely on the I-League clubs, while a source close to the official broadcaster claimed it had no contractual obligation to telecast all the matches.

-AIFF’s view-point-

Elaborating on why the I-league has been treated the way it has been, AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta said, “The clubs [unlike ISL] do not invest in the promotion of the tournament and neither do they pay any participation fee like what happens in ISL. In fact, AIFF spends about ₹17-18 crore to keep the I-League going. The broadcaster does not make money out of I-League as there aren’t many sponsors attracted to it.

"That is why they (Football Sports Development Limited, which promotes ISL, and Star Sports) tend to give I-League a step-motherly treatment. ISL has an investment of around ₹300 crore a season while AIFF and FSDL combine to pool in hardly ₹25 crore for I-League. That says it all.”

Gokulam Kerala president V.C. Praveen labelled the move “murder of the I-League.” “The quality has been excellent this year. Last season, the I-League had a viewership that was close to that of the ISL.

“The I-League is more competitive than any other football league in the country. “Only with proper television coverage could you hope any sporting event to grow.”

Rohit Ramesh, the owner of Chennai City FC, was equally vocal: “Before the season began, we were promised that all games will be live on Star Sports. It comes as a shock that only select games will be shown.”

-Sponsorship issue-

The move also affects raising sponsorship for I-league clubs. “We are competing for sponsorship with a similar set of brands and clients alongside the ISL clubs and considering the ISL is the bigger league, it is already tough to convince sponsors. The live telecast of all matches is very important to secure sponsors,” said Rohit, who was also upset with the standard of refereeing in Chennai City FC’s 1-0 loss to Real Kashmir on Saturday.

“With no TV coverage, teams can’t even raise the issue of bad decisions. Even if we do, the league won’t have any video to analyse it.”

Ranjit Bajaj, owner of defending champion Minerva FC, said he has spoken to several club owners and they are all on the same page.

(With inputs from Amitabha Das Sharma, Dipak Ragav, P.K. Ajith Kumar, Shyam Vasudevan)