When on Monday, the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) announced the two expansion franchises not many were surprised to hear that former I-League champions Bengaluru FC were one of them besides TATA Steel.
Since their foundation in summer 2013, JSW backed Bengaluru FC have been a force to reckon with on the Indian club football circuit. They won the 2013/14 I-League in their premiere season besides winning the title again in the 2015/16 season. BFC also won the 2015/16 and 2017 Federation Cups and also reached the 2016 AFC Cup final to also leave a mark at the Asian level.
Over the years Bengaluru FC has also worked on setting up their youth development system, interact with their active fan base and basic merchandising while shifting from the artificial turf ground at the Bangalore Football Stadium to the lush real green of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
The track record at the top professional level of Bengaluru FC since arriving on the scene has been more than just impressive and football rivalries have emerged especially against the Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan AC and East Bengal Club.
Now Bengaluru FC bid adieu to the I-League to switch what it consider the more lucrative Indian Super League without much surrounding noise like their Kolkata counterparts.
But to me the question is, Is the timing of Bengaluru FC’s switch from I-League to the Indian Super League right?
With the fluid scenario in Indian club football still persisting and a final solution for the interim still unclear, the switch according to me is a little premature, then the financial reasons given to make the move in the short term while the transition is happening in Indian club football are non-existent.
Bengaluru FC are likely to make a bigger financial loss in the ISL than in the I-League next season with bigger revenue streams still to the developed in the ISL and this lack of clarity which also not help on the sponsorship front.
Also it is unclear to me if one of Bengaluru FC’s key demands of having the chance to qualify from the ISL to Asian club competitions will be fulfilled this upcoming season. At the moment the I-League remains the top tier of Indian club football meaning that the I-League champions will get a slot in the AFC Champions League qualifiers, while the cup winners, which was the Federation Cup in the past, gets the AFC Cup slot and that cup competition might be scrapped and then there might be no second slot for India. Confusion prevails in that matter.
And then there is the issue of players. If a draft happens in the ISL, then Bengaluru FC might only be allowed to retain two of their players and build a completely new squad. From own past experience I know, it is a pretty hard task.
Therefore making the switch in the given scenario surely makes sense in the long run, but the question remains if Bengaluru FC’s timing this summer is right or wrong.
Only history will tell…