The Kerala based club Gokulam FC has rebranded itself to Malabar FC as the AIFF decided to award direct entry to club owned by Sree Gokulam Group. The club will join the national league from the upcoming edition.
The AIFF’s Bid Evaluation Committee after a meeting in New Delhi decided to grant Sree Gokulam Group the right to field their team. The team will be playing their home matches out of Kozhikode, Kerala.
“AIFF Bid Evaluation Committee met at the AIFF HQ in New Delhi to evaluate the bids submitted after the tendering process was initiated on August 18, 2017,” the AIFF said in a statement. “From the bids submitted, the Bid Evaluation Committee decided to award Sree Gokulam Group the right to field their team in Hero I-League season 2017-18 onward,” it added.
Gokulam will become only the third team after FC Kochi and Viva Kerala/Chirag Kerala to have played in the top division of Indian football. The last team to have represented Kerala in the I-League were Chirag Kerala (formerly Viva Kerala) who were relegated following a 12th-place finish in the 2011-12 season.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome a new Kerala team from Sree Gokulam Group to the Hero I-League from the 2017-18 season,” AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said. “I hope the club would be able to ignite the passion of Kerala football in Calicut where they will be playing from.”
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said, “We would like to congratulate Sree Gokulam Group on winning the bid. It has been our endeavour to have corporate teams come into the Hero I-League and the team from Kerala will open a new market for the league. “It will be beneficial to both the Hero I-League as well as Indian football. And I’m sure the passionate football fans of Kerala will be delighted to have a team of their own.” Dhar added.
While Bengaluru-based Ozone FC and another team, believed to be from Rajasthan, also made their bid but they were rejected.
Gokulam FC, who have never played in an AIFF competition in the past, participated in the Kerala Premier League earlier this year, where they reached the semi-finals.