After Mahindra and Mahindra, now JCT have decided to wind up its Phagwara-based popular club for, what it says, the lack of mileage from the I-League. Their decision came as a rude shock for the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Like Mahindra and Mahindra, JCT are former national league champions, but they have been struggling financially for the past few seasons. As speculated, they have decided to disband the team after their relegation from the premier division of the I-League this season.
AIFF secretary general Kushal Das said that it was unfortunate that JCT's decision came at a time when things were looking bright for Indian football.
"It was certainly not expected, but this is unfortunate. I will try to talk with (JCT president) Samir Thapar to discuss his plans of promoting the sport at the grassroots," said Das.
The club in a statement on Monday stated: "Today football teams worldwide have become self-sustaining enterprises for which high exposure is needed to build viewership and spectators in the stadium. JCT won the inaugural national league in 1996, where there was high quality TV exposure and widespread public interest. But since then the league has had negligible exposure and the teams have been going almost unnoticed."
The club said it has decided to pull out till football in India shows some possibility of generating value for corporates and their brands, besides fetching popularity for football among youngsters.
"JCT Limited, being a corporate, needs to justify to its stakeholders the effort vs visibility of the football team," the statement added.
AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta feels that it is high time for the federation to make the I-League a commercial success.
"We have to make the I-League a commercial success otherwise corporates would wind up their clubs. It is a big loss for Indian football. We have to make sure that when corporates are investing they also get the returns," he said.
JCT, formed in 1971, won the inaugural national league in 1996 and has produced several top-class footballers.
Club president Samir Thapar, however, will continue his association with football as the president of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) and will continue to work with passion for strengthening the sport at grassroots in Punjab through JCT Football Academy, the company said.