AN INTERNAL TOURNAMENT organized by Minerva Academy has left some of the biggest clubs in India and Europe baffled by its misuse of their intellectual property.
Minerva Super League, which is organized by Minerva Academy Football & Cricket Club, features students of their famed academy as the players in the competition. The players were sorted into several teams through an "auction" recently, a la the Indian Premier League (And Indian Super League in its early days).
Ranjit Bajaj, the owner of the academy and the tournament, said the matches of the tournament would be streamed live on the internet with "world class commentary" and get promoted via various means.
A well-promoted tournament like this not only helps the academy's students get a decent platform to showcase their skills but also promotes the Minerva Academy brand, which is well known for its training institutes for those who aspire to join the Indian armed forces.
The only problem with the idea, however, lies with the names and logos used for some of the teams.
6 of the most popular clubs in India and Europe - namely East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters, Manchester United, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona - are all represented in this tournament. The teams are identified with the emblems of these clubs, with the words "Fan's Club" written underneath in small fonts.
When Ranjit Bajaj introduced the teams in the auction, however, he referred to them by the names of the club, without ever mentioning the "Fan's Club" part of their claimed identity.
He described the assembly of big names in the tournament as,
"European Super League... their idea was they will actually bring all the top teams together. So we have beaten them to that. We have formed our own, and now we have all the top teams together in the world and in India."
The claim, if true, would make Minerva Super League one of the most prestigious internal academy tournaments in the world; the first competition if its kind to be endorsed by 6 of the biggest names in Indian and global football.
The problem, however, is that most of these clubs deny having any connection with Minerva Super League and believe the use of their logo and name amounts to misuse of intellectual property.
When TFG reached out to Mohun Bagan about their involvement in the tournament, a senior official expressed shock learning about the presence of their clubs's logo in this competition, exclaiming,
"How is it possible?"
He confirmed that the Minerva Academy had taken no permission from the club to use or display their emblem.
The reason behind his shock appeared to be Mohun Bagan's high regard for Minerva Academy as a major institution in Indian football, since it has produced players that made it into several top flight clubs as well as India's national team roster, including the prestigious group that played in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017. Minerva are also former owners of Punjab FC which won India's top division league and went on to play in AFC Champions League Qualifiers as well as AFC Cup.
Representatives of East Bengal and Kerala Blasters also confirmed that they had no association with Minerva Super League and they had not given them permission to use their intellectual property.
Even the Premier League giants Manchester United were surprised to learn about their logo being present in this tournament. They launched an internal enquiry about the matter, following which they issued an official statement to TFG,
"Having liaised with our internal team, we can confirm we have no official association with The Minerva Super League. Therefore, they do not have any official permission to use our Club Emblem across any of their digital or in-person events."
The La Liga clubs, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, have not yet responded to our queries on the matter, neither have Minerva Academy themselves.
None of the clubs TFG contacted have commented on whether or not they will pursue this matter further.
It is to be noted that fan clubs do not use the emblem of their club for themselves, since it would constitute a misuse of the club's intellectual property. Major fan clubs of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters including EBRP, East Bengal Ultras, Mariners' Base Camp, MDX, Manjappada etc have all designed their own unique logos that pay tribute to the clubs' identities but maintain a respectful distinction between them.
It appears this is the line that Minerva Academy's internal tournament has crossed, whether intentionally or not.