The All India Football Federation's disciplinary committee has begun the proceedings to decide on a possible sanction against Kerala Blasters after the Kochi-based side walked out of their Indian Super League match against Bengaluru FC. (More Football News)
The AIFF disciplinary panel on Monday dismissed Kerala Blasters' demand for a replay of the match and strict action against the referee of the ISL play-off match played in Bengaluru on Friday.
Kerala Blasters woes are not over yet as the AIFF DC will decide whether they will be sanctioned for walking out of the match after a contentious Sunil Chhetri strike.
"The AIFF DC has initiated the process whether to impose sanctions on KBFC. A decision is likely in 10 days," a top source told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
"Deciding on whether their (KBFC's) protest was maintainable or not and whether there would be sanction or not, the two issues are total different and not related to each other," the source added.
"A decision on their protest has been given and now a decision on the sanction issue will come."
The source said multiple hearings could happen before a decision is pronounced by the AIFF panel.
Under Article 58 of the AIFF Disciplinary Code (of 2021), dealing with "abandonment" of matches, Kerala Blasters could cough up Rs 6 lakh fine and even may attract disqualification from a competition in progress and/or exclusion
from a future competition.
According to Article 58.1: "If a team refuses to play a Match or to continue playing one which has begun, it has committed an offence. Penalty: forfeit of the Match; and fine of at least INR 6,00,000 (Rupees Six Lakh)."
But Article 58.2 reads as: "In serious cases, the offence is aggravated. Penalty: forfeit of the Match; and fine of at least INR 6,00,000 (Rupees Six Lakhs); and disqualification from a competition in progress and/or exclusion from a future competition."
Kerala Blasters had on Friday walked off the pitch and forfeited their match, protesting against the Chhetri strike. They had filed a protest to the AIFF against referee Crystal John's decision to allow Chhetri take the free-kick that resulted in the goal.
After a goalless stalemate in regulation time at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru FC took a 97th-minute lead when the talismanic Chhetri converted a free-kick.
But the strike from the India captain led to a full-blown drama as the Adrian Luna-led side protested the referee's decision to declare it a legitimate goal, with counter-claims that he did not blow the whistle before Chhetri took the kick and the players were not ready.
This followed an unprecedented walk-out, a first in ISL where Serbian coach Ivan Vukomanovic called back his players. Kerala Blasters forfeited the match.
"The protest filed by Kerala Blasters has been quashed," a source had told PTI on Monday.
On Tuesday, the AIFF issued a statement that the AIFF Disciplinary Committee, which met on Monday under chairperson Vaibhav Gaggar, has rejected the protest lodged by Kerala Balsters.
After going through the Laws of the Game as well as the reports by the officials, the committee ruled that "the protest is not maintainable in law, as the conjoint comprehensive and holistic reading of the League Rules and the (AIFF Disciplinary) code clearly provides that no protest can be entertained against a referee's decisions, since the said decisions are final and binding.
"The facts of the present case depict that the incident does not even fall within the exception carved out in Article 70.5 of the Code. Thus, the present Protest letter/report/petition is dismissed."
The next major competition is the Super Cup which begins in Kerala on April 3, a tournament among ISL and I-League teams.
Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC have been placed together in Group A, according to the draws held on Tuesday. The two sides are scheduled to face each other on April 16 at the EMS Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode.