I-League clubs struggling to stay afloat

Posted on 2009-06-26
NEW DELHI: Trimmed squads, drastic pay cuts and performance-linked perks are some of the steps that cash-strapped Indian football clubs are contemplating to stay alive in the new season.
The economic meltdown has hit the I-League clubs hard and they have been told by their tight-fisted sponsors to find ways to slash unwarranted expenses.
But players are unfazed and feel that they would be the last to feel the pinch.
Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the biggest corporate beneficiaries, have been told by their sponsors United Breweries Group that their funding would come down to Rs 50 million from Rs 65 million each while Essel Group, owners of Mumbai FC, is planning to trim the squad and also introduce variable pay based on performance.
Newly promoted Pune FC, run by the Ashok Piramal Group, are planning to make do with local talent while former national league champions JCT of Phagwara have decided not to splurge on big names.
East Bengal’s director Mr Amit Sen admitted that the exit of Playwin, an online lottery company, has hurt the club, though they are still tied up with Reebok.
“With the cut in the grant, it is tough to keep the team afloat,” said Mr Sen.
Mumbai FC’s promoter Essel Group said that they are geared up to face the challenge.
“Like all global clubs, we will spend sensibly and will also reduce the squad strength to 25 from 34. We will closely monitor the players’ performance,” a club spokesperson said not wanting to be named.
“Even if we decide to introduce performance-linked pay it will be across the board as it can’t be done for players alone,” he said.
JCT coach Sukhwinder Singh feels that economic downturn is a blessing in disguise for Punjab players.
“This year we will be scouting for local talent and we will not run after big names,” said Sukhwinder.
Surprisingly, the monetary squeeze does not seem to have affected at least two Goan clubs, Churchill Brothers and Dempo. They are out pampering players.
I-League champions Churchill have announced hefty pay hikes for their players.
Club’s patron Mr Churchill Alemao admitted that it is a challenge to run the club with the expenses shooting through the roof.
“Managing the family-run club is getting difficult. We are looking for sponsors and we are hopeful of finding them,” Mr Churchill said.
He said the club has tied up with Asia’s leading sports marketing agency ‘Total Sports Asia’ for finding sponsors. Churchill Brothers defender Gourmangi Singh, who got a cent percent wage hike for playing the stellar role in his club winning the I-League, doesn’t see players getting affected all that much.