Pune FC likely to shut first team operations, Bharat FC’s future up in the air

Football in the Deccan city is set to suffer as two clubs are close to shutting their operations...

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) plan to promote the I-League has taken a severe blow with a seasoned and a fledgling club from Pune facing the dusk.

It is reliably learnt that the Ashok Piramal Group owned Red Lizards, who came into existence back in 2007 are set to discontinue their first team operations. The club was created to give an impetus to the sport of football in the city of Pune and kickstart a team that could compete on a national level professionally.

They are however, expected to continue their academy set-up which houses youngsters of three age groups – Under-19, Under-17 and Under-15.

According to sources, it is believed that the ownership were disillusioned with the state of Indian football. Despite having fulfilled the club licensing criterion and earning the reputation of one of the most professionally managed teams in the country, the management decided to pull plug on first team investment. It must be noted that Pune FC were also one of the first teams to aptly name the club after the city in the I-League era.

With next to zero revenue streams for clubs, lack of broadcasting rights and no marketing plan, it is believed that Pune FC’s owners recognized a lack of vision or a roadmap for Indian football as a whole, which led them to believe that investing further in top flight wouldn’t make sense.

The club remained unavailable for comment on the above developments.

On the other hand, Bharat FC who made their foray into the I-League last season after coming into existence less than an year back, haven’t yet finalized their plans for the upcoming 2015-16 season.

As reported earlier by Goal, the Lions of Pune are yet to sign a player on their roster.

With coach Stuart Watkiss in Pune since the end of last month, there has been no progress on recruitment front and several of the club’s staff, including CEO Suvrat Thatte have already put in their papers, Goal can reveal.

The club, who are backed by Bharat Forge Group, spent heavily in their debut season and still could only manage to finish bottom of the table. They weren’t relegated only thanks to the grant offered to corporate entities who commit to support Indian football in the long run by the AIFF.

Bharat FC’s future is very much up in the air as the club management is expected to meet the AIFF president Praful Patel and take a final call on whether they wish to continue their sojourn in Indian football.

Goal also contacted AIFF to learn if they received any intimation from the two Pune-based clubs to which they replied in the negative. However, it must also be noted that Patel had mulled the idea of Pune FC and Bharat FC's merger but given that the former team's owners do not have any intention of funding or being in existence in India's top division league, this is certainly out of the question for now.