Points penalty, ban and fine: What the threefold sanction means for FC Goa and ISL

The regulatory commission of the Indian Super League (ISL) came down hard on FC Goa on Thursday for their unsporting behaviour following defeat to Chennaiyin FC in last season’s ISL final. In its unanimous verdict, the five-man commission handed the Goan franchise an unprecedented three-fold punishment: a huge fine of Rs. 11 crores, a 15-point deduction at the start of next season and long-term suspensions to its co-owners, Dattaraj Salgaocar (three years) and Shrinivas Dempo (two years).

Post defeat in the ISL final in December, FC Goa’s entire contingent had boycotted the presentation ceremony as per a directive from the club’s owners. They had alleged that Chennai’s Brazilian star Elano Blumer had “assaulted” Salgaocar after the final whistle – allegations that the Chennaiyin camp have always vehemently refused. The Goan camp threatened to boycott the ceremony in the absence of an Elano apology, which never arrived. Instead, Salgaocar took matters into his own hands and lodged an FIR with the local police for assault to have the Brazilian immediately arrested. Additionally, he made comments which implied the match had been fixed in favour of Chennai.

File photo of the FC Goa players. ISL

File photo of the FC Goa players. ISL

For this, FC Goa fully deserved to be heavily sanctioned. As far as unsporting actions go, to take football out of its sporting jurisdiction probably tops most lists. It made headlines across India and the world. It brought the league into disrepute and overshadowed a fantastic ISL final. It also left the organisers embarrassed on the final day.

No wonder then, they appear to be in no mood to forget and forgive and are hell-bent on making an example out of the Goan franchise. Indian football has largely been a safe haven for defaulters, with a lenient and inconsistent approach, but the ISL is proving to be a different ball game altogether. Here, you stand in line, or risk suffering. Even Dempo, who is a vice-president at the All India Football Federation (AIFF), hasn’t been spared.

It is only the severity of the sentence that will be a matter of great debate. Was a three-fold punishment, so harsh on all three counts, necessary? If the verdict withstands the appeal (assuming Goa appeal, which is almost always the case), it will deal a fatal blow to the franchise’s 2016 ISL campaign.

While the owners were justifiably reprimanded, the monetary fine is hugely significant too. To put things into perspective, the fine itself is more than half the entire season’s player salary cap of Rs. 20 crores. Goa’s purchasing power will be considerably reduced for at least a season.

Add to all this a 15-point deduction in an eight-team league which has only 42 points to play for in a season, and this could well be one of the most severe bans to be dished out to a club anywhere in the world. Fifteen points is essentially a five-game ban for the club. With the ISL being in its nascent stages, and in need of safeguarding its own interests, it could not afford to ban a franchise from playing for a season or even a few matches. Points deduction was a smarter alternative.

However, there are two ways to look at a 15-point penalty. First, monetary punishments are usually manageable and do not really hit a club at its heart (even if an 11-crore fine does make an impact). We frequently sit in our homes demanding a points deduction or, say, a transfer ban – just something, anything, that directly affects a disciplined club’s on-field progress. Because that’s where it really hurts. By this reasoning, a points penalty is justified. It covers all bases and truly penalises a club.

Then there is the other viewpoint: Do FC Goa really need to be docked points for actions that, however against the spirit of the game, did not directly affect the outcome of any match during the course of the season?

Clubs across the world are often docked points for fielding an ineligible player (proportional to the number of games affected by the presence of that player), or for a match being abandoned due to crowd trouble (only for that particular match), or even, in the rarest of cases, for fixing matches. As a result of Italian Serie A’s infamous Calciopoli match-fixing scandal a decade ago, Juventus were relegated to a lower league and started the season with a 17-point penalty. AC Milan stayed in the top division and began with an eight-point penalty, while Fiorentina and Lazio were docked 19 and 12 points, respectively, at the start of the following season.

When you put this into context, Goa’s 15-point deduction appears to be extremely harsh. An educated guess is that the club will challenge the verdict, which should significantly lessen the number of points docked if not also the monetary fine.

As it stands, the verdict also smacks of a feeling of retribution. Which isn’t a surprise considering how FC Goa had been at loggerheads with the ISL organisers well before the final. According to well-placed sources at the club, the protest on the night of the final was simply the tipping point of a growing dissent against the organisers.

During the course of the season, Goan club officials had felt aggrieved with the standard of refereeing in certain matches and on being denied adequate training facilities during away trips to Delhi and Kolkata. After registering their complaints, they were not satisfied with the ISL governing body’s response. Furthermore, it didn’t help matters that FC Goa’s Brazilian manager Zico spoke freely against the league’s policy of allowing six foreigners in the playing XI and on how he thought the ISL, in its current format, would not be beneficial to Indian football.

On the night of the final, the source confirms, the Goan camp was upset with how poorly they were treated on their own turf (the final was played at Goa’s Fatorda Stadium) as ISL personnel took control of the venue and asserted their authority. It started well before the match, when a private vehicle of co-owner Dattaraj Salgaocar was not allowed in the usual designated parking area, and reached a climax when ISL’s security guards, unable to recognise co-owner Shrinivas Dempo, manhandled him to stop him from entering the field for the ceremony. Then came the alleged Elano incident, followed by allegations of match-fixing.

Earlier this week, a day before the verdict, news channel NDTV released exclusive post-match footage that captures Goan officials heckling the Brazilian midfielder rather than the other way around. However, FC Goa fumed at the “suspicious” timing of the video, which you can’t deny, and alleged that the footage is “doctored” and “edited”, which is debatable.

Either way, the footage leak, five months on, suggests that there is more than just an ordinary verdict in play here. We are likely to hear a lot of this case in months to come.

Updated Date: May 06, 2016 12:35 PM

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