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I-League: Why the joining of U-Mumba FC was never on the cards?

12:14 PM MYT 17/06/2019
New I-League Trophy
Ronnie Screwvala-owned U-Mumba FC likely to not participate in I-League this season….

There were a lot of speculations in recent times which suggested that the I-League, India’s top tier league, was all set to welcome a new team in the upcoming season.

Bollywood producer Ronnie Screwvala-owned U Sports were reportedly interested in fielding U Mumba FC, their new footballing venture from Mumbai, in the next edition of the I-League.

U-Mumba FC was formed last year and they had taken part in the MDFA Elite Division, Mumbai’s top football division. The new side had reached the semifinals of the tournament before being ousted by Air India in the penalty shootout.

U-Mumba went on to announce trials for the team even before they were given permission to play in the I-League. In fact, the AIFF had not even started the Request for Proposal (RFP) process for U-Mumba to join the I-League.

If a team wants to enter the I-League directly via bidding process, the Indian FA’s commercial partners (Football Sports Development Ltd) must be informed and their permission is required. Also, the AIFF's League Committee or the Executive Committee must approve of the bid.

While U Sports did receive indications that the AIFF might be open to a new team in the I-League, the official process was never initiated nor did AIFF's commercial partners or AIFF's concerned committees give them a go ahead.

Also, the transfer window was opened on June 7 and it is going to be very hard for any new team to put together a competitive squad.

In the past six years, a total of five clubs have directly entered the I-League via corporate entry. It started with JSW Group who formed Bengaluru FC. They went on to win the I-League in their inaugural season and are currently plying their trade in the Indian Super League (ISL).

Other than Bengaluru, Bharat FC, DSK Shivajians, Chennai City FC and Gokulam Kerala FC were the other clubs who sought direct entry into the I-League.

While Bharat FC and DSK Shivajians had to shut shop soon, Chennai City won the I-League last season. Gokulam Kerala too have had a decent run in the past two years.

Mumbai have not had an I-League side since Mumbai FC decided to wind up operations after getting relegated from the top division in 2017. For now, it seems that Mumbai will not have a representative in India top division this season.