Hours after Kerala Blasters Football Club (KBFC) announced a “temporary pause” of its women’s team activities on Tuesday, 6 June, citing the financial sanctions imposed on the men’s team, it faced a huge backlash from the football fraternity.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the temporary pause of our Women’s Team. This decision has been necessitated by the recent financial sanctions imposed on our club by the football federation. While we respect the authority and decisions of the federation, we cannot deny our disappointment at the impact it is likely to have across various functions of our club,” the KBFC said in a statement.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had, on 2 June, rejected KBFC’s appeal against the ₹4 crore fine imposed on them for misconduct and for abandoning a ISL playoff match against Bengaluru FC after Sunil Chettri scored a contentious goal.
The AIFF committee had also rejected KBFC’s Serbian head coach Ivan Vukumanovic’s appeal against the fine of ₹5 lakh and a 10-game ban imposed on him.
Huge backlash against Kerala Blasters
The KBFC management’s decision was rebuked severely by different sections of football lovers, even outside India, who called it a sexist move.
Blaster’s own fanbase, considered the biggest in India and popularly known as Manjappada (Yellow Army), took to Twitter to criticise the club’s decision.
“Disappointed would be an understatement. Pathetic decision from the management to pause operations of the women’s team. Hard to believe that the decision was taken after the sanctions imposed on the club. Women’s team should never be a checkbox for licensing #FootballHasNoGender,” Manjappada posted on Twitter.
Disappointed would be an understatement. Pathetic decision from the management to pause operations of the women’s team. Hard to believe that the decision was taken after the sanctions imposed on the club. Women’s team should never be a checkbox for licensing.#FootballHasNoGender https://t.co/wJB3Ch0Uzn
— Manjappada (@kbfc_manjappada) June 6, 2023
Swedish goalkeeper and legend Hedvig Lindahl also reacted to the KBFC’s decision. “When will women’s football be fully respected?,” she posted on Twitter.
When will women's football be fully respected? https://t.co/IkQa7czdzq
— Hedvig Lindahl (@hedvig_lindahl) June 6, 2023
Indian national women’s team goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan questioned the KBFC’s decision. “So the men’s team gets a fine for what they did and the money comes from the women’s team budget by shutting it down? Great, that’s how women’s football will develop in India. Horrible!,” she said in a social media post.
So the men’s team gets a fine for what they did and the money comes from the women’s team budget by shutting it down? Great, that’s how women’s football will develop in india. Horrible! https://t.co/0Wxh4xM6Ht
— Aditi Chauhan GK 🇮🇳 (@aditi03chauhan) June 6, 2023
English Commentrator Kevin Hatchard said, “If you have a women’s team, that funding should be ring-fenced. You shouldn’t start a women’s team and then just ditch it at the first sign of financial trouble. It’s not a luxury or a piece of PR — it should be a long-term commitment. Every club should understand this.”
If you have a women’s team, that funding should be ring-fenced. You shouldn’t start a women’s team and then just ditch it at the first sign of financial trouble. It’s not a luxury or a piece of PR – it should be a long-term commitment. Every club should understand this. https://t.co/b7QQvCEhJ2
— Kevin Hatchard 🎙⚽️ (@kevinhatchard) June 6, 2023
Several other users also criticised to the Blaster’s management decision on social media.
Women's teams in state leagues across India are run on an average budget of 5-10 Lakh rupees per year, given they only play around a month.
If Kerala Blasters cannot afford 10 Lakh rupees, which is 50% of the salary they pay to their lowest player, it's shameful and disgusting. https://t.co/3jCP5QNiph
— Sayak Dipta Dey (@sayakdd28) June 6, 2023
— Anirban Chakraborty( あにるばん) (@anirban_speaks) June 6, 2023
‘Temporary pause’ for KBFC women
The KBFC management said, after a very encouraging first season that saw women’s team achieve tremendous results, the club had plans to increase its investments.
These investments included a first-ever foreign pre-season tour for the women’s team, player exchanges, exposure tours, and much more.
“However, the financial sanctions have presented us with an unfortunate challenge. As a club, we must prioritise the more immediate objectives and long-term financial stability,” the KBFC said.
Expressing regret over the temporary pause of its women’s squad, the KBFC went on to say: “The decision to pause their activities was made after careful consideration and evaluation of the current circumstances. Not to mention, the club is still awaiting further sanctions from the league body as well that are only likely to augment the financial impact on the club.”
The KCFC added, “It is important to highlight that this pause is temporary. We will reinstate our women’s team upon closure of this matter in its entirety.”