The Disciplinary Committee of the All India Football Federation, chaired by Vaibhav Gaggar on Friday, March 31, 2023, imposed a fine of Rs Four crores (INR 4,00,00,000/-) on Kerala Blasters FC for walking off the pitch and thereby forfeiting their Hero Indian Super League playoff match against Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on March 3, 2023.
The AIFF Disciplinary Committee, after hearing all parties involved in the tie and considering their protests and submissions, said that Kerala Blasters are “also directed to issue a ‘Public Apology’ for this unsporting conduct of abandoning the match, failing which the total Fine to be imposed on the Defendant team will be increased to Rs. 6,00,00,000/- (Rupees Six crores).”
Kerala Blasters’ actions came after a hotly disputed goal scored by Bengaluru FC from a free-kick. The club filed a protest to the AIFF against referee Crystal John’s decision to allow the goalscorer Sunil Chhetri to take the free-kick that resulted in the goal.
Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic, who was accused of the offence of abandonment and bringing the game into disrepute, and apparently instigated the team for discontinuing the encounter, has been penalised “with a 10-match ban/suspension from AIFF held tournaments irrespective of whichever team he is contracted with, along with a fine of Rs Five lakh (Rupees 5,00,000/-) under Article 9.1.2 (of the AIFF disciplinary code).”
The Disciplinary Committee further stated, “This would necessarily mean that the Head Coach shall not be permitted to be a part of the team dressing room and/or the team bench as per Article 9.1.6. the Head Coach is also directed to issue a ‘Public Apology’ for his misconduct, failing which the total fine to be imposed on the Head Coach will be increased to Rs. 10,00,000/- (Rupees Ten Lakh) along with the aforementioned ban/ suspension for 10 matches and from being a part of the team dressing room and team bench, irrespective of the team he is contracted with.”
The Committee has directed both Kerala Blasters and Ivan Vukomanovic to comply with this order within one week. However, Kerala Blasters and their Head Coach have the right to file an appeal against the Order.
The Committee also noted that “abandonment of a game is one of the rarest occurrences in global sporting history, especially in Football. In India, this is only the second time in professional football recorded history that a team has abandoned a match. The only other time such an act occurred was in the match of East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan on December 9, 2012.
“In that match, Mohun Bagan was a goal down against bitter rivals East Bengal in Kolkata when a stone hurled from one of the stands hit midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi. The match resumed after a 13-minute stoppage towards the end of the first half, but Mohun Bagan refused to take the field after the interval as the midfielder Nabi was treated for a fractured jaw and Mohun Bagan players still felt insecure and in danger. Despite having such a probable cause of abandoning the match, Mohun Bagan were stripped of all the 12 points they had earned so far in the league and had been fined Rs 2,00,00,000/- (Rupees Two Crores),” the committee observed.