The battle for supremacy between the I-League clubs and the Indian Super League (ISL) took an all-new turn in June when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das revealed that as per the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) signed between AIFF and Football Sports Development Limited (initially IMG-Reliance) in 2010, the ISL was set to become the top league of the country as well as a closed one. But I-League clubs are now claiming that they were never aware of such a scenario when they signed the contracts.
Speaking to IANS, Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj said that the club was not aware of the fact that an agreement was being made, but added that the AIFF had asked them to sign a document which said that AIFF may start a top league in future which Minvera may not be a part of initially.
"They made us sign a document which said that if they start a top league, we will not be part of it immediately," he said.
"But they never said in the agreement that we signed that the top league will be a closed league and we will not be a part of it forever and the only way to get into it is to pay Rs 15 crore a year.
"In fact, the MRA that was signed with AIFF, the clause 5.25 which they keep on talking about, says that IMG-Reliance has full right to make a senior-most league. But it never says that the senior-most league will be a closed league, it will be a franchise league, Rs 15 crore needs to be paid by the clubs to be in it."
Responding to the same question, Gokulam FC president V.C. Praveen said: "We wouldn't have taken so much of pain to build a team to face this kind of a situation. The AIFF also gave us the example of Minerva and Chennai City FC (CCFC) who had already signed the same contract.
"We were never told about the clauses in MRA between the AIFF and FSDL. When we signed the contract with the AIFF, we were told that it was mandatory. When we declined to agree to some clauses, AIFF told us that to participate in I-League it is mandatory and the clauses were a norm across the world. They never informed us about making ISL the top league," Praveen said.
The clubs have written to the Prime Minister, they have sought the intervention of FIFA and AFC and if needed, they are even ready to go to court.