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I-League TV listings for January and February shuts out Mumbai FC, club writes to AIFF in protest

THE I-LEAGUE is set to kick off in about 10 days and finally, at long last, the TV listings have come out for January and February. The listings are highly selective since broadcasters Ten Sports Network are going to televise only 45 out of 72 matches, and the distribution of televised matches across the clubs is uneven to say the least. 

But what's surprising is that one particular club, for some strange reason, has been completely left out of the televised matches. That club is Mumbai FC. 

It's true that since the telecast is selective the broadcasters will prioritise between matches. That's why in the next 2 months defending champions Mohun Bagan will have 7 out of their 9 matches beamed live to spectators while newly-promoted Aizawl FC will only see 3 matches televised. But why would the broadcasters completely shun the fixtures of Mumbai FC as if they don't even exist?

For comparison, here's a full list of clubs and the number of their matches that will be televised in January and February -        

Club Home Away
Mohun Bagan 6 2
East Bengal 5 2
Aizawl FC 1 2
DSK Shivajians 2 3
Shillong Lajong 2 6
Sporting Clube de Goa 3 2
Bengaluru FC 3 2
Salgaocar FC 2 3
Mumbai FC 0 0

 Keep in mind Mumbai FC are part of some crucial matches during this time. They host East Bengal on 17th January, Bengaluru FC on 27th January and Mohun Bagan on 10th February: all 3 are popular clubs that are expected to draw a significant number of away fans. 

And Mumbai FC have slowly been building their own fanbase as well. After being banished from their own city for a number of years due to the renovation of the Cooperage Stadium being stuck in litigation - during which they played their home games in Pune and Kolhapur - they finally returned to their own soil last season and a few weeks into the campaign a small but vocal number of fans could be seen every matchday. And since then their fans have organized - online and offline - and held meetings to come up with banners, slogans and other matchday plans. 2015-16 is going to be their big coming-out season. But if their club's matches are not televised their efforts will go unseen by the potential fans who might be inspired to join them after seeing them on TV.

And financially, it's a threat to the club. Mumbai FC have already made sponsorship deals with multiple companies to put up their hoardings by the pitch at the Cooperage during their matches. The companies are paying to have their logo's displayed on TV. If there is no telecast, these companies may want to pull out. 

Source close to the development has told TFG that the club are shocked and bewildered by the injustice that has been done to them in the TV listings. They have already written a letter to the AIFF protesting against this unfair treatment and have demanded a rectification in the listings to include some of matches, especially the crucial home games they have in January and February.

But why something like this could happen in the first place beats all rational thinking. To call it an oversight sounds implausible. And yet, it makes no sense to assume this has been done to them deliberately; after all, the broadcasters Ten Sports Network is owned by the Essel Group which owns Mumbai FC too. Why would they shoot their own club in the foot?

At a time when clubs like Pune FC and Royal Wahingdoh have pulled out of the I-League, Mumbai FC have hung on through some extreme situations. They have been forced to play in other cities and made do with a small budget through some very competitive seasons. And once they were back where they belonged, they were showing signs of revival. Last season they finished 6th, which happens to be the highest they have ever finished on the table. And they also won the award for the best organizer in the league. 

And now, just when they were about to take things to the next level, shutting them out of TV coverage for the two whole months threatens to undo all their efforts. It will be tragic and shameful if AIFF does not do justice to Mumbai FC. 

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