In a big jolt to Indian football, Punjab-based JCT Club disbanded itself from professional football on Monday, citing lack of public interest in the game in the country.
The development was not a surprising one as there was speculation that the club, which was demoted from the I-League last month, would shut shop as it has been struggling for the last few years.
JCT's decision could also have an impact in the All India Football Federation's efforts to rope in the corporate sector in the development of the game.
"JCT Limited has taken a strategic decision to pull out for the time being till football in India shows some possibility of generating value for corporates and their brands, besides bringing up popularity of football among youngsters," read a statement from the club.
"JCT Limited being a corporate, needs to justify to its stakeholders the effort vs visibility of the football team. Today, football teams worldwide have become self-sustaining enterprises for which high exposure is needed to build viewer ship and spectators in the stadium.
"JCT won the inaugural Football League in 1996, where there was high quality TV exposure and widespread public interest. But since then the League has had negligible exposure and the teams have been going almost unnoticed," the statement added.
The Punjab powerhouse side's decision to pull out from competitive football has come a year after Mahindra United disbanded after finding itself difficult to sustain due to lack of interest in the game in the country.
JCT chief Samir Thapar had been critical of the inability of the AIFF to market the game. He was not at all happy that the I-League matches were not telecast live even after the AIFF signed a 10-year commercial partnership deal worth Rs 700 crore with IMG-Reliance last year.
JCT, however, will continue to work at the grass-root level football and also continue to run its academy.
"JCT's Football Team was formed in 1971 and since then JCT has worked hard and invested in working at grass-root level in Punjab and building a top class team.
"Mr Samir Thapar, as President of Punjab Football Association, will continue to work with passion for strengthening the sport of Football at grass-root level in Punjab and also through JCT Football Academy continue to find and train youngsters for tomorrow as the academy has been grooming champions for JCT and almost all football clubs of Indian football."