New Delhi: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia said if the chit fund scam, which has affected I-League clubs in Kolkata, was unearthed earlier his team United Sikkim would have hired better players for realistic salaries.
Bhutia, who has recently took over as the chairman of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) technical committee, feels I-League clubs outside West Bengal are lucky no to have been affected by the scam.
"Luckily, we have stayed away from all this. It's only the Kolkata clubs, who will have a direct effect," Bhutia told reporters on the sidelines of the launch Pepsico-AFDP "Kick for Hope" programme.
Kolkata's United SC were the biggest spenders in the last season with a budget of Rs.17 crores. But United are now looking a tough forthcoming season since their chief sponsor Prayag, is one of the 70 chit-fund companies under the scanner of Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
The Saradha Group collapse, which has affected thousands of investors in West Bengal, has also affected Kolkata's two big clubs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Though both the team's have chief sponsors in United Breweries, they also had chit fund companies as associate sponsors.
The Saradha had invested Rs.1.8 crores in Mohun Bagan since 2010-11 and Rs.3.5 crores in East Bengal since 2010. Another chit fund company, Rose Valley, also under the government lens, sponsors East Bengal as well. Smaller clubs, playing in various divisions, have also been beneficiaries.
Bhutia said the trend was disturbing for Indian football and hoped that now salaries will get realistic.
"Though, it's a concern for the football clubs in India. The exaggerated salaries that everyone was getting, I think it will dry up now," he said.
With two games remaining in the I-League season, United Sikkim are bottom of the table and staring at relegation to division two.
"Nathan Hall (coach) tried his best. I feel sorry for the players because this is their livelihood we are talking about. We are hoping for a good result in the last two games and the players need to stay motivated," said Bhutia.