JCT disband senior team, to focus on Academy & grassroots

The rumour has been making rounds for a while now and today came the confirmation from JCT themselves, the Punjab-based side from Phagwara has disbanded their professional senior team citing lack of public interest in the game in the country. It comes a year after another corporate club in Mahindra United from Mumbai had taken the same step.

JCT, the first champions of the National Football League in 1996/97 (now running under the name of I-League), had been relegated last month from the top tier of Indian club football and they simply do not see a sustainable financial future for their club in the second Division besides JCT has been running the club on a small budget over the last few years mainly relying on young talent coming out of the JCT Football Academy as they weren't willing to pay the high salary demands of the players.

JCT in a press release said

JCT Limited has taken a strategic decision to pull out for the time being till football in India shows some possibility of generating value for corporates and their brands, besides bringing up popularity of football among youngsters.

JCT Limited being a corporate, needs to justify to its stakeholders the effort vs visibility of the football team. 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 Football 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-

JCT's football team was formed in 1971 and since then JCT has worked hard and invested in working at grass-root level in Punjab and building a top class team.

Mr. Samir Thapar, as president of Punjab Football Association, will continue to work with passion for strengthening the sport of football at grass-root level in Punjab and also through JCT Football Academy continue to find and train youngsters for tomorrow as the academy has been grooming champions for JCT and almost all football clubs of Indian football.

There is one good thing, which is that JCT will continue to run their JCT Football Academy and support the grassroots program in Punjab, while Samir Thapar remains president of the Punjab FA.

Baichung Bhutia said about the development, "In 1996, when we won the inaugural National Football League and that was the golden period of JCT football. Myself, Vijayan, Jo-Paul (Anchery), Carlton Chapman, Tejinder Kumar formed the core. All the stars wanted to play for JCT. But you have got to understand their sentiments. Year after year, they have been spending crores of rupees with minimal returns. After a certain point of time, you feel frustrated and this is what happens. I am sad but not surprised."

The question is what's next? This is what the AIFF, the I-League and their commercial partners IMG-Reliance need to ask themselves and answer to the fans of Indian football. Then at the moment running a football club in India is not a commercial viable entity and that needs to change asap otherwise others could follow this drastic step taken by Mahindra&Mahindra and JCT, who both had been involved in Indian football for many decades and weren't any of the new investors into the game, who came and left again.

North India will now go unrepresented in the NFL/I-League for the first time in its 15 year history and at the moment there doesn't look to be an alternative clubs who could make it through from the 2nd Division in place of JCT.

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