In the year it turned 40, JCT Football Club withdrew from competitive football on Monday citing "negligible exposure" of the I-League. Winners of the first National Football League in 1996-97, JCT were relegated from this year's I-League. The football academy in Phagwara, Punjab, though will continue to run.
Coming five days after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) failed to keep its development side Indian Arrows in New Delhi because of lack of sponsors, this decision leaves north India unrepresented in the I-League, India's premier football competition. JCT are the second top-rung team after Mahindra United to disband it in the past 15 months. Like JCT, Mahindra United have focused on grassroots football."JCT Limited has taken a strategic decision to pull out for the time being till football in India shows some possibility of generating value for corporates and their brands besides bringing up popularity of football among youngsters… JCT Limited being a corporate needs to justify to its stakeholders the effort versus visibility of the football team," said the company press release. "But the League has had negligible exposure and the teams have been going almost unnoticed."
"It is hard to deny their claim of negligible exposure but I wish they had a discussion with us. Over the last few days, we have been working out a strategy on how to make the League more popular, how to improve its profile but it's hard to do anything in the short-term. I understand and respect their decision. I hope they will reconsider their decision in the due course of time," said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das. Samir Thapar, the textile baron whose company bankrolls the team and is the president of the Punjab Football Association, couldn't be reached but Rajmohan Singh, senior vice-president, told HT the decision had nothing to do with the team's demotion and finances as the textile industry is currently doing well.
No decision has yet been taken on the club's three-year-old tie-up with English club Wolverhampton Wanderers, he said. Thapar, who unsuccessfully contested for the AIFF president's post in 2000, had criticised the AIFF when I-League matches were not telecast live nationally despite a 15-year Rs700 crore deal with IMG-Reliance last year.