Bhutia, who lost 33-1 to Kalyan Chaubey in last September’s AIFF presidential election, is on the executive committee as an outstanding player, being the most decorated former Indian national team player with 82 appearances in a 16-year career.
Bhutia was once a crowd favorite wherever he played in India, but he was the only dissenter at Monday’s executive committee meeting in Bengaluru. My job is to make suggestions. How will they be accepted…, he mouthed over the phone from Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Bhutia, 46, expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Indian Women’s League (IWL) is run; asked why a core committee was needed to run the AIFF; said the ₹24 lakh development grant to each state was insufficient; wondered if it was fair to allow five corporate teams in I-League 2023-24 and how come Chobei attended a competition in Sikkim that the state soccer association did not approve?
After the last statement, there was a deadpan silence, Bhutia said.
Regarding the IWL, Bhutia said: The conditions for the IWL should be on par with those given to I-League teams, and it should be a home and away competition. Have those suggestions been accepted? I don’t know, he said.
In 2022-23, the IWL was held in Ahmedabad in April and May, and to combat the intense heat, some games started at 8 a.m. But even that didn’t help, said Gokulam Kerala FC champions coach Anthony Andrews. In May, Chobei said the AIFF would try to avoid competing in April and May.
Bhutia also asked why a core committee was needed. The AIFF has committees for everything, so what’s the point? Created in June to control costs and hiring, the committee should also handle purchasing and bidding as well as budgets and finances.
The first player to play in Europe and score a hat-trick in the Calcutta derby in independent India, Bhutia said the ₹24 lakh grant to the states was insufficient. They spend so much on so many things. It is the states that produce the players, not the ISL or I-League clubs. There are many AIFF affiliates that get no support from state government.
To be clear, Bhutia said that Sikkim ran a league that cost about ₹3 crores. It was not approved by the state association. And the chief guest there was Kalyan Chaubey. AIFF general secretary Shaji Prabhakaran saidl that the Sikkim Football Association has not complained to the federation about the legitimacy of the competition.
Prabhakaran asseotmented that ₹24 lakh was not enough, but said it was a start. Since January, 19 affiliates have been using it. The total cost is ₹10 crore, so 20% of what AIFF gets from its commercial partners is now going to the states, he said by phone from Bengaluru.
Allowing five corporate teams into the I-League will make it harder for clubs that have long served Indian soccer to attract financial sponsors, Bhutia said. Instead of backing, say, Mohammedan Sporting, an investor would say: I’ll make my own team. It would also increase the cost of hosting the I-League.
The AIFF first received five I-League bids, which, after careful review, were approved by the executive committee on Monday. The AIFF may receive about ₹13-14 crore from the corporate bids, but it is unclear whether that money will stay with the federation or go to its commercial partner.
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