Why Kerala Lost its Women’s Football Team?

On June 6th, 2023, Kerala Blasters temporarily suspended the women’s football team due to “financial crunches”. But these crunches raised from the sanctions imposed on the club after the men’s team walked out of an Indian Super League playoff fixture last season. The walk-off was a protest against a contentious Sunil Chhetri goal from a free kick. 

The AIFF (All India Football Federation) fined this walk-off, and they imposed a ₹4 crore fine. The club’s appeal against the fine was rejected. The federation also further rejected Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanovic’s appeal against the fine of ₹5 lakhs and a 10-game ban imposed on him.

Why Kerala Lost its Women's Football Team?

The temporary suspension of the women’s team was announced by the official handle of Kerala Blasters, which issued a club statement,

“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.”

They also reiterated that the women’s team had taken strides in football, and the decision has a basis on their performance and is a decision taken solely from a financial point of view. They also emphasized that the suspension would be temporary and the women’s team would be reinstated soon. 

This decision recieved a lot of criticism from the country’s female footballers, including Indian women’s team goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan and captain Ashalata Devi. This article explores the various facets of this issue and encompasses the various angles through which this decision can be viewed. 

Must Read: Exploring the Love for Football in Kerala

The aspect of accountability 

The post’s comments have caused a great divide, with each appealing to a different aspect and sparking debates. The first question raised was about accountability.

It is important to hold the men’s team accountable for their mistakes, but it is unfair and unethical to penalize the women’s team under the same club and temporarily suspend them to cover the costs. The men’s team should be able to raise the funds themselves or face suspension if necessary. It is important for them to face the consequences of their actions. If individual footballers are not being penalized, they should all contribute to paying the fine. Additionally, since the money allocated for the women’s team has been used to pay the fine, it could be considered a loan given to the men’s team. Therefore, it may be appropriate to ask them to pay back the women’s team with interest.

Many netizens seconded that this decision enables unprofessional behavior coupled with patriarchy. Because women are yet again forced to pay the price for an action committed by men. And this point was focussed upon by India’s women’s football team captain and goalkeeper as well. 

The aspect of business and revenue 

There is a faction that believes this decision should be based on finances alone, as the men’s team generates more revenue. They argue that suspending the men’s team would be unreasonable, as the women’s team would not be able to make up for the lost revenue.

The women’s team, which recently started, functioned on the subsidized revenue brought in by the men’s team. Since women’s football is a relatively newer concept, the audience who appreciate the game is a closed niche. Until this news was announced, many people, including Malayalis were oblivious to Kerala Blasters’ women’s team. 

Apart from the business perspective, the revenue generated by the men’s team will support the women’s team in the subsequent year. The influence of patriarchy is evident here, but it seems to stem from societal norms rather than having a direct impact on the decision-making process.

A question that was raised is whether the women’s team could match the revenue of the men’s team if they continued playing. Some suggested that the women’s team should willingly forfeit a season in order to contribute towards the fine, as they are all part of the same club and should support one another. Meanwhile, the men’s team’s decision to walk out is currently being defended, and the fine imposed on them is viewed as an unjust way to suppress them.

The aspect of Gender bias 

Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Tapasee Pannu have spoken about pay disparity and the influence of patriarchy within their respective fields. The same has been carried over to sports as well. 

If the roles were reversed, would the decision be the same? Would the women’s team receive the same support? Or would they be suspended? Accountability and gender bias though they are entwined at some level, share different roots and bring different arguments to the table. 

The identification of sports primarily with men leads to the men’s football team having their games broadcasted on TV, garnering more attention, more audience, and more revenue. At a stage where women’s football is slowly gaining importance, the suspension of the women’s team will be a blow to the careers of the women footballers as well as the growth of the team as a whole. 

The neglect of sportswomen and lack of awareness about female football teams has been marked as the root cause of this decision by the third faction of netizens. 

After reading all the incidents and all the arguments, what are your views on the same? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Check it out: All You Need To Know About Kerala Blasters Football Club

Shivani Sarat
Content writer and creator. Author of 'Black Daises', a poetry anthology.

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