Minerva Punjab in talks to sell stakes: Report

This I-League club is up for grabs

Minerva Punjab Football Club is engaged in talks with potential buyers for partial disinvestment.

The club, reportedly engaged in talks with several parties, will only pick a partner who is serious about football development. “I am not a corporate house so it is very tough so I am trying to look at possibilities where I can raise some money. We are looking for mergers or partners. There have been some offers but we need people who are very serious about taking football forward and not just interested in the business part of it,” Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj has told national daily Hindustan Times.

More than a professional football club, the I-League outfit has been credited with developing grass roots football through Minerva Punjab Football Academy. Clubs’ junior team have been Under-15 India champions for the fourth successive season and the youth I-League winners.

Formed in 2005 as Minerva Academy, the club was directly inducted in the I-League ahead of the 2016-17 season and went on to win the title a year later.

However, the Minerva Punjab management has been in the forefront of the battle against the All-India Football Federation to protect rights of I-League, which is being deprived of the status of India’s premier football league in favour of cash-rich Indian Super League.

In April this year, Bajaj had threatened to shut down Minerva Punjab after six years of existence citing step motherly treatment from the All India Football Federation and Football Sports Development Limited which runs the Indian Super League.

Bajaj and representatives of five clubs—Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Churchill Brothers—have been fighting to ensure top-tier status for the I-League. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has recommended to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the continent’s highest body in the sport, that the Indian Super League (ISL) be given that honour.

“I am not giving up the fight,” said Bajaj. After informing the AFC and FIFA, the clubs would wait for some time for a reply and could move court.

Meanwhile, the paper has reported that an organisation which runs grassroots programmes in football centres in Punjab as being interested in Minerva Punjab FC. If negotiations succeed, Minerva Punjab FC can make between ₹ 12 crore and ₹ 18 crore from disinvestment.

Bajaj has also revealed to the paper that he was talking to three parties, but there was no concrete offer. He also confessed that he would not stay away from football. “The maximum it can mean is a merger or a 50:50 partnership. It is not going to be like I am giving away the total thing. There is no chance of Ranjit Bajaj selling Minerva Punjab Football Club and being off football unless they (the national federation) ban me.”