Mon. Jul 15th, 2024
'Incompetent Chaubey leadership will lead AIFF to doomsday,' alleges Shaji Prabhakaran

In a scathing 18-page letter titled “22 Months of Kalyan Chaubey: A Sordid Saga of Misrule and Misdeeds,” former Secretary General of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Shaji Prabhakaran, has outlined numerous grievances against AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey.

Addressed to AIFF members and president Chaubey himself, the letter delved into the alleged mismanagement and detrimental actions under Chaubey’s leadership.

The Bridge provides an exclusive sneak peek into the contents of the letter to which we have access.

Key points from the letter

In the letter, Shaji emphasized that he remains legally in his position due to a court order from December 8, 2023, which stayed the AIFF’s decision to terminate him on November 7, 2023.

He filed a legal case not to be reinstated, but to combat what he perceives as the unjust and dictatorial leadership of president Choubey. Prabhakaran criticized the AIFF president, Chaubey, for causing financial strain on the organization through his decisions and for publicly accusing him of a “breach of trust” without evidence.

He asserted that his termination was a result of his resistance to Chaubey’s actions, which he believed were harmful to Indian football.

Additionally, Prabhakaran shared his intent to resign on November 9, 2023, due to the difficulties in working with Chaubey.

Core Committee Formation

According to the letter the conflict between Prabhakaran and Chaubey intensified with the formation of the Core Committee by Chaubey.

Chaubey’s aim was to push his project plans and diminish the powers of the Secretary-General. Prabhakaran didn’t initially object to the committee, as he valued dialogue and interaction. However, the committee didn’t approve Chaubey’s projects, reducing his influence.

Realizing his diminished power, Chaubey plotted to dismantle the committee.

Is it not also the responsibility of the AIFF Executive Committee to order an investigation on this serious allegation, whether Mr Kalyan Chaubey as President of the AIFF has offered to accommodate TMC functionary into AIFF structure?

I will not be surprised if this allegation…

— Shaji Prabhakaran (@Shaji4Football) July 9, 2024

High production costs

The letter mentioned that Prabhakaran became convinced that Chaubey was unfit for the presidency when senior members complained about the unjustified high expenses of I-League production, which Chaubey blamed on Prabhakaran.

Prabhakaran explains the high production costs of the I-League, which Chaubey pushed to match ISL standards. Chaubey insisted on improving production quality despite budget constraints, promising revenue generation through broadcasting deals.

Despite Prabhakaran’s reservations, Chaubey pressured him to proceed with the tender for higher production specifications, assuring him of revenue to cover costs. However, Chaubey failed to secure any financial returns, leaving AIFF to bear the expenses.

Chaubey’s alleged role in AIFF’s financial loss

Prabhakaran claimed that Chaubey was unable to generate funds and started rejecting his production-related expenses.

Chaubey’s priorities were misplaced, risking AIFF’s financial stability. The budget reduction in the 2024-25 I-League season is attributed to Chaubey’s poor decisions.

Prabhakaran explained how the 2023-24 I-League production tender was designed to reduce costs without compromising quality, a decision Chaubey opposed despite budget constraints. Chaubey’s undue interest in production matters and his defence of a vendor’s court case raised suspicions of a conflict of interest.

Chaubey’s undue haste in releasing payments

Prabhakaran called for an investigation into why Chaubey took extraordinary interest in releasing payments to a production vendor, including personally signing cheques.

Chaubey also promoted the vendor and took Prabhakaran to their office in Kolkata. Chaubey also appointed seven people of his choice, including four in Kolkata, without proper justification. This issue was raised by AIFF members in May 2023.

Crisis During Asian Games

Chaubey is held fully responsible for the negative press and criticism that AIFF and Indian football faced before and during the 2022 Asian Games. Despite knowing by June 2023 that the Indian football teams did not meet the eligibility criteria, Chaubey failed to communicate this to AIFF or hold any meetings.

When a media story on July 15, 2023, reported the teams’ ineligibility, quoting Prabhakaran, it led to public appeals for inclusion, which Chaubey initially questioned. The government intervened, and the teams were included after several meetings.

However, Chaubey made unilateral decisions, including adding three senior players, disrupting the head coach’s plans. His media comments reflected a lack of understanding of FIFA rules and obligations to professional clubs.

Chaubey’s suggestion to postpone the ISL for the Asian Games was contradicted by the ISL’s immediate announcement of match schedules.

His actions were seen as immature and unprofessional, damaging AIFF’s credibility and painting it as an unprofessional organization.

Chaubey’s conduct lowered the status of the AIFF president and brought disrepute to the organization. Prabhakaran had anticipated problems and pleaded with Chaubey to withdraw the men’s team from the Asian Games, highlighting Chaubey’s lack of maturity and foresight in handling the situation.

Contract clause approved and denied by Chaubey

Contrary to his claims, Kalyan Chaubey was updated at each step regarding the head coach’s contract, and it was signed only with his approval. Despite this, Chaubey has a perpetual habit of blaming others and never pointing fingers at himself.

The termination clause was revised in September 2022 when the extension was granted, and Chaubey had a copy of the agreement, though he often failed to read it before making public statements.

The first extension for the head coach was granted based on the decisions of the Technical Committee and Executive Committee, and the extension contract was drafted with revised clauses accordingly.

Furthermore, Prabhakaran revealed that after his departure from AIFF on November 7, 2023, he learnt about Deputy Secretary General Satyanarayan’s conspiracy against him, which had been ongoing since June 2023.

Nomination to IOA

Chaubey’s election to the Indian Olympic Association as Joint Secretary occurred within the first month of his tenure as AIFF President. Questions arise regarding the process he followed to nominate himself for this position and whether he consulted the AIFF Executive Committee.

Serving as the acting CEO of the IOA, a role akin to full-time employment, Chaubey failed to bring this responsibility to the attention of the AIFF Executive Committee, raising concerns about his moral obligations.

Additionally, Chaubey’s unwavering support for two executive committee members who misused their positions further exacerbated governance issues. Despite Prabhakaran’s efforts to curb these practices, Chaubey backed the wrongdoers, leading to a campaign against Prabhakaran.

Chaubey’s election promises have also come under scrutiny. He pledged to secure an additional INR 100 crore for AIFF within the first year and to obtain land and headquarters for each state association. However, after 22 months as the president, there is no sign of these additional funds, as reflected in the AIFF budget for 2024-25.

His failure to fulfil these promises and his inability to increase subsidies for I-League clubs, which continue to lose money, further undermine his credibility.

Government support, failed qualifications and more

During the 14-month tenure of Prabhakaran with AIFF, he noted that the Indian government, particularly the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and SAI, consistently supported Indian football.

SAI and MYAS extended their support whenever AIFF made requests, provided there was a clear plan to justify the government’s investment. The government was willing to fund activities and exposure trips if AIFF included them in the annual plan approved by MYAS and SAI.

With focused leadership and proper engagement with the government, Indian football could have received unprecedented support.

One significant failure mentioned was the missed opportunity to qualify for the third round of the FIFA World Cup 2026. Initially, there was a strong chance of qualifying due to a favourable draw, the team’s momentum after winning three consecutive titles on home turf, and a focused approach from the previous administration.

This led to India reaching the 99th position in the FIFA rankings. However, post-November 2023, the national team’s performance declined dramatically.

This decline was attributed to Chaubey’s failure to provide adequate leadership, his lack of communication with the head coach, and his avoidance of national team matters. Despite having the same players and coach, the team suffered an embarrassing defeat against Afghanistan and missed a historic opportunity to qualify for the third round.

Qualifying for the third round would have been a major achievement, providing the Indian team with ten high-quality games against higher-ranked sides, enhancing global status, and opening commercial opportunities.

It would have also boosted grassroots participation and increased government interest in football. However, Chaubey’s actions, driven by personal interests, prevented these benefits.

Furthermore, Chaubey’s unilateral termination of the national team head coach is highlighted as his unprofessionalism and unethical conduct.

Despite AIFF’s well-established policies and the involvement of legal and HR professionals, he made decisions without proper consultation, resulting in considerable financial loss and reputational damage to AIFF. His dictatorial approach ignored the interests of the AIFF and tarnished the institution’s image.

All in all, Prabhakaran accused Chaubey of incompetent leadership, taking Indian football backwards by at least 20 years.

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