Mohun Bagan were handed a lifeline by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday. Time will tell whether in the process, it has set a dangerous precedent.
After deliberating for over three hours, the AIFF executive committee rescinded the ban on Mohun Bagan which it had imposed following I-League rules to the letter. From being suspended from the I-League till 2015-16, Mohun Bagan were accommodated in the current edition.
The club can now resume in I-League 6 as soon as they cough up Rs. 2 crore as “quantified compensation, damages and losses” within “three-four working days”, said AIFF president Praful Patel.
It will start on zero points and play the remaining 16 rounds. East Bengal were awarded three points and three goals for the abandoned tie which they were leading 1-0 when Mohun Bagan refused to play.
Sudden U-turn by Aiff officials
The sudden and drastic reduction in sanctions comes as a huge surprise since the committee claimed that there still was no evidence justifying Mohun Bagan’s refusal to resume their match against East Bengal at Salt Lake stadium on December 9, a clear breach of I-League regulations.
The I-League core committee had, in its meeting here on December 29, handed out the sanctions clearly spelt out in Section 22c of the I-League regulations.
So exactly what prompted AIFF’s change of heart?
Stating that this reversal was happening for the “first and last time”, AIFF president Praful Patel told the media, “When we say we’ve reduced the quantum of penalty, we don’t say we find any justification (for Mohun Bagan’s actions).
“But while we agree with Justice (AK) Ganguly’s report, we’ve taken a slightly more lenient view, keeping in mind the long tradition of the club, its lakhs of followers and the larger interest of the game, the players at the club and the spectators.”
In the lead-up to the meeting, it was being speculated that the ban would be reduced to this season with Mohun Bagan possibly being allowed back in the I-League second division in 2013-14.
Even now, Mohun Bagan could find survival in the top tier tough.
Task becomes tougher for Bagan
The task becomes tougher given that the fate of their main goalscorer and skipper, Okolie Odafa, is to be decided by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee.
But Mohun Bagan, none of whose officials will be allowed to attend any meeting of the AIFF or the I-League in 2013, weren’t complaining.
“We’ve gone through tremendous mental stress over the last one month,” said the club’s assistant-secretary Srinjoy Bose. “We’re glad that it’s over.”glad that it’s over.”
Mohun Bagan will resume against Salgaocar away on January 20.