Image for representation purpose only. (Getty Images)
Panaji: Sporting clube de Goa on Tuesday confirmed they have formally withdrawn from I-League 2016-17 owing to "strong objections" to the proposed road map by AIFF and its marketing partners IMG-Reliance for Indian football.
Former champions Dempo are also on the verge of pulling out of the league.
"With regret Sporting Clube de Goa confirms their withdrawal from the I-League," the club said in a statement.
"Following strong objections to the road map for Indian football as proposed by AIFF and their marketing partners on 17th May, 2016, Sporting Clube de Goa along with fellow Goan Club Salgoacar FC, after several rounds of deliberations, had taken the painful decision to withdraw from the forthcoming edition of the I League."
Another former champions Salgaocar had already withdrawn from the league and according to All India Football Federation, the club was rendered ineligible for the I-League after failing to fulfil the licensing process for the forthcoming season.
AIFF and its marketing partners had in May unveiled a road map for Indian football. As part of their plans, AIFF had planned to elevate the Indian Super League to the top division in a three-tier format for domestic football, with the I-League and the second division relegated to second and third division status, respectively.
After a few clubs raised concerns with the road map, the AIFF had formed a task force to look into the final implementation for the restructuring plans.
Sporting said in the statement, "FIFA President Giovanni Infantino and AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa along with Secretary Dato John Windsor descended on Goa at the end of September to attend the Extra Ordinary Congress of AFC, and made all the right noises.
"The task force consisting of high ranking officials of AFC, AIFF and IMG-Reliance also had its first meeting in Goa on 27th September, 2016. We are in the dark as to what transpired at that meeting, as sadly there was no representative of any I League club there, which itself tells its own story."
Calling this a tactical decision, Sporting said the club will continue with all other football activities like grassroots and youth development and also maintain a strong first team to compete in Goa as well as in all India football tournaments.
On the pull out, the club further stated, "... In the meantime AIFF President Praful Patel kept on tomtoming that the road map for the future of Indian football is only a work in progress and that I League is the main league of the country.
"All this time we at Sporting Clube clung to the hope that following the statements coming from the Presidents of FIFA, AFC and our own AIFF, and following our representation to FIFA and AFC, a fresh road map which did not envisage the forced demotion of the I League teams, would be announced well in time to allow us to field our team in the forthcoming I League.
"With that hope, we even participated in the club licensing process and secured our national license. But we now realise that all our hopes have been belied."