New Delhi: Iconic football club Mohun Bagan was today handed a two-year ban from the I-League by the All India Football Federation for abandoning the violence-marred derby match against East Bengal on December 9.
The decision was taken by the I-League Core Committee, which also declared all of club's matches in the "I-League Competition 2012-2013 cancelled and considered null and void".
"The I-League Core Committee of the AIFF received the detailed Report dated 26th December 2012 of the Hon'ble Justice A K Ganguly relating to I-League Match No. 68 between Kingfisher East Bengal (KEB) and McDowell Mohun Bagan (MMB) played at Yuba Bharati Stadium, Salt Lake City Kolkata on 9 December 2012," the AIFF said in a statement.
"Justice Ganguly in his report has concluded that the decision of MMB for not playing the match after the interval cannot be supported on the grounds of Force Majeure and accordingly MMB has breached Regulation 22 of the I-League Regulation 2012-2013.
"The I-League Core Committee endorsed the decision of Justice A K Ganguly that MMB was in breach of I-League regulations and therefore in terms of regulation 22(c) the mandatory and automatic impositions on MMB (i) of being considered to have withdrawn from the I-League Competition 2012-2013 (ii) to have all its matches in the I-League Competition 2012-2013 cancelled and considered null and void (all points, goals scored and goal against being taken away); (iii) being disqualified from taking part in the next two editions of the I-League Competitions; (iv) to return to the I-League any financial stipends that had been paid to it by I-League throughout the Competition 2012-2013 or forfeit the right to the same, are hereby notified to have been imposed upon and effective with immediate effect," the statement said.
The more than century-old club, the most famous in the country with a rich history behind it, that was in some way also connected with India's rise in nationalism in the initial phases of freedom struggle, however, would be allowed to play in Federation Cup -- India's premier knock-out tournament -- and other domestic tournaments, including the local league.
Mohun Bagan will also not get a direct entry to the I-League first division and will have to come through the second division league, a top AIFF official told PTI. This effectively means that Mohun Bagan will lose four I-League seasons, including the current one (2012-13) in which it has played nine matches before the fateful derby, as it will have to play in the 2015-16 I-League second division to qualify for the 2016-17 top division.
"Mohun Bagan's ban will continue till 2014-15 season and they can play in the 2015-16 second division I-League to qualify for 2016-17 I-League first division," I-League Chief Executive Officer Sunando Dhar said.
Another top AIFF official said that Mohun Bagan cannot appeal to the Asian Football Confederation or the world governing body FIFA against the AIFF's decision. "I don't think Mohun Bagan can appeal to AFC or FIFA. They can appeal to the AIFF Executive Committee. Of course, they can go to a civil court against the AIFF decision," the official said.
The Kolkata giants had refused to take the field in the second half of their match against East Bengal citing 'security fears' after their key player Syed Rahim Nabi was hit on the face by a stone hurled from the stands. The star India player underwent a surgery to set right two fractured bones, and will be out of action for at least six weeks.
The decision to ban Mohun Bagan for two seasons was the harshest handed to any football club in the country, old timers said. "I have never come across any such long ban to any club in the country. There were bans on players and short ban, say one match or two match like that, never such a long ban. It is a bit harsh," one football expert said.
The AIFF said that the core committee will meet again on January 9 to assess the quantum of compensation Mohun Bagan will pay to the stakeholders, including the I-League sponsors, for the losses suffered by them due to the abandoned match.
"The I-League Core Committee also decided that in the subject matters of 'quantification of the amount of compensation', 'extension of the suspension, if any' and 'additional sanctions and fines, if any', a meeting of the Committee be convened on 9th January, 2013 at New Delhi and M/s. United Mohun Bagan Football Team Private Limited be requested to place its view points in regard to the factors relating to "quantification of the amount of compensation', 'extension of the suspension, if any' and 'additional sanctions and fines, if any'," the AIFF statement said.
"Consequent to 'McDowell Mohun Bagan' being considered to have withdrawn from the I-League Competition 2012-2013 and having all its matches cancelled and considered null and void (all points, goals scored and goal against being taken away), the revised Fixture with re-structured Point Table will be published as soon as possible," it added.
I-League CEO Dhar has been authorised to communicate the decision of the committee to Mohun Bagan and forward a copy of the report with it. Mohun Bagan general secretary Anjan Mitra said, "I can't take a decision right away. Our executive committee will meet and take a decision to contest the verdict."
The suspension will hit hard on the big-spending club since it has some of the biggest players in the Indian football circuit, including the most expensive recruit Odafa Okolie and coach Karim Bencherifa. An AIFF official, however, said that under rules the players have the right to demand the full salary for this year, but added that it's upto the club and the players to sort out the issues.
"The players can demand full salary but the AIFF is not into the scene immediately in this regard. The federation will can come in later," the the official said.