New Delhi: Plans for a new football league in West Bengal have been jeopardised after organisers were denied permission to seek the transfer of high-profile foreign players.
Argentine legend Hernan Crespo, Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Robbie Fowler of England were among six semi-retired world stars due to play in the Premier Soccer League (PLS).
The new league, made up of six teams from towns in West Bengal, was set to start late March.
But the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) suspended the PLS late on Saturday from taking part in FIFA's Transfer Matching System because the six new teams were not affiliated to the sport's governing body.
"The six franchises have been barred from seeking transfer of players because their documents are incomplete and proper procedures have not been followed," AIFF secretary Kushal Das said.
With the transfer window due to close on February 15, the Indian Football Association (IFA) -- the name of the body running the sport in West Bengal -- faces a race against time to put the PLS back on track.
Despite the setback, IFA secretary Utpal Ganguli was confident the PLS would still go ahead from March 24 to May 6.
"The transfers were stopped due to a misunderstandig, but everything will be cleared soon," he said. "The PLS will go on for sure."
The AIFF has called an emergency meeting for Monday amid media reports that it may withdraw permission to conduct the tournament, which has been designed along the lines of cricket's Indian Premier League.
Plans for the PLS have already been hit by the AIFF's refusal to allow Indian players from the official domestic I-League to join, as the AIFF said it was only a state-level tournament.
That means the foreign stars would be playing alongside district-level players in various towns of West Bengal if the tournament went ahead.
Amid the confusion, organisers cancelled an auction for local players due to be held in Kolkata on Sunday.
The teams spent heavily on securing world stars at an auction in Kolkata on January 30, with Crespo going for an annual salary of $840,000 and Cannavaro for $830,000.
Robert Pires of France fetched $800,000, Nigerian Jay Jay Okocha got $550,000 and Fowler was sold for $530,000.