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Footballers pay to play for top oil company

HT’s investigations have unearthed that the manager of ONGC football club repeatedly inflated the TA/DA (travel and daily allowance) of contracted players and collected the same in cash from them every month. Gordon D’Costa reports.

sports Updated: Aug 07, 2009 01:42 IST
Gordon D’Costa

On Thursday, petrochemicals major Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), announced their sponsorship for the $100,000 (about Rs 48 lakh) six-nation Nehru Cup football event at a glitzy New Delhi function.

On Thursday again, HT’s investigations unearthed that the manager of their football club repeatedly inflated the TA/DA (travel and daily allowance) of contracted players and collected the same in cash from them every month.

The manager, Subashish Mazumdar, told Hindustan Times that one of the reasons he did that was to supplement the incomes of the club’s fringe players, as the company does not pay them a salary.

His comments are on tape.

Among India’s highest profit-making corporations, ONGC is a public sector company that supplies about 77 per cent of India’s crude oil production.

Former ONGC footballers Rakshak Naik and Rohan Pereira, who represented the club during the 2007-08 season, said their salaries were Rs 25,000 per month. But with the TA/DA added to their salary, they received an amount in excess of Rs 40,000. The additional (TA/DA) amount had to be given in cash to Mazumdar.

Naik told HT he was never told why he had to return the money to the manager.

“I was afraid to question him.” The striker wanted to leave the club immediately but could not because of his year-long contract. “It’s a big racket. The manager was cheating players.”

Pereira, like Naik, now plays for Sporting Clube de Goa. He said players believed the management was aware of this practice, so they were scared of complaining. When HT contacted Mazumdar, the current club manager, about the allegations, he first refuted them and then backtracked. “Yes it is true I collected money in cash from the players.” When asked why, he offered three explanations.

His first was that he had provided advances to several players and so, would take that money back. “ONGC takes time to pay and sometimes they are getting salary after two months. For that time they have been getting advance from me,” (sic) he said.

His second was rather confusing. He said that whenever the team made outstation trips from Mumbai, only company employees would get TA/DA in advance. He said that he would make arrangements for travel, hotel bookings and meals for contracted players. We're quoting his next statement verbatim. “After they are getting their travelling allowance after a couple of months, they are giving me back.” This doesn't make sense. Former ONGC player Naik asserts: “He made false bills to inflate TA/DA and would take the surplus amount from us.” Mazumdar also made a statement that was very surprising, given that ONGC puts more money into Indian football than any other organisation in the country. Mazumdar stated that some money was collected from contract players to supplement the salaries of fringe players, who received a stipend of about Rs 7,000-10,000 a month. “ONGC is a public sector company and we can't take much more players at a time. Every year we are taking some extra players that are not getting salary from ONGC rolls.” We asked if that meant that he was paying them from the other players' salaries. “Yes,” he assented.

Naveen Kumar Jit, ONGC's Director (Sports), had this to say: “There is no fact about these allegations as there is no evidence. If it's a fact, it should be brought to light.” Jit added: “The players should have complained to the CVO (Chief Vigilance Officer) in writing with evidence of proof. And given a copy of that to the Director General, the HR Head and me. Why should players who earn so little give part of their money to the manager?”

That's a question we're asking too. Meanwhile, Mazumdar told HT he would provide documents to support his explanation (he didn't specify which one). He asked us to meet him on Thursday. However, en route to meeting him, we learnt that he had left town. He would not take any calls thereafter.