NEW DELHI: Weeks before the start of the 2021 season of the Hero I-league, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Saturday barred former champions Chennai City FC from what is now officially India's second-tier league.
The decision to bar the I-League 2018–19 champions was taken by the AIFF's Club Licensing Committee after the The Lions failed to comply with licensing regulations.
The new season of the I-League is scheduled to kick off on December 26. All the matches will be played in Kolkata due to COVID-19 protocols. Fixtures are yet to be announced though.
Kenkre FC, who finished second in the I-League qualifiers, will replace the former champions in the 2021-22 season.
Confirming Kenkre's promotion, the AIFF said, "Kenkre FC, who had finished second in the Hero I-League Qualifiers (in October 2021 in Bengaluru), will be playing in the Hero I-League 2021-22."
Earlier known as the I-League 2nd Division, the I-League Qualifiers was won by Rajasthan United to join 11 teams in the I-league.
AIFF statement in full:
NEW DELHI: The AIFF Club Licensing Committee has taken strong exception to Chennai City FC (the "Club") for failing to comply with most of the mandatory AIFF Club Licensing Regulations for the forthcoming Hero I-League 2021-22 despite giving additional opportunity after assurances from the Club including a detailed conference call
With the Hero I-League scheduled to kick-off later this month, the Committee wasn’t in any position to give any more opportunities to the Club, and henceforth, has unanimously decided to not grant the Exemption sought by the Club, after having failed to receive the ICLS Premier 2 Licence of 2021-22 season. As a result of not receiving the Licence or the Exemption, the Club is thus barred from participating in the Hero I-League 2021-22. The club is also serving a FIFA transfer ban which doesn’t allow them to sign players.
In accordance with the powers vested, the AIFF League Committee proposed the name of Kenkre FC as a replacement for Chennai City FC in the Hero I-League 2021-22. This decision has been ratified by the AIFF Emergency Committee. Kenkre FC, who had finished second in the Hero I-League Qualifiers (in October 2021 in Bengaluru), will be playing in the Hero I-League 2021-22.
The Hero I-League will kick-off as slated, in Kolkata from December 26, 2021, and the fixtures will be officially announced soon.
The club issued its own statement following the AIFF announcement to clarify its stance: