Weeks before the start of India's second-tier football league, I-league, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Saturday barred former champions Chennai City FC from the competition. (More Football News)
The decision to bar the I-League 2018–19 champions was taken by the AIFF's Club Licensing Committee after the club failed to comply with licensing regulations.
"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," the federation said in a statement.
The new season I-League is scheduled to kick off on December 26. Fixtures. All the matches will be played in Kolkata due to COVID-19 pandemic. Fixtures are yet to be announced though.
"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," the statement added.
In the previous edition of I-League, Chennai City were dropped to 'Relegation Stage' after finishing ninth in the regular season with nine points from 10 matches (three wins and seven defeats).
But they survived the drop by finishing third in the relegation stage, above Indian Arrows and NEROCA.
The Indian football federation has also imposed a FIFA transfer ban on the club.
"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."
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.