When Pune FC (PFC) sold midfielder Lester Fernandez to Prayag United for Rs 20 million last week,there was widespread speculation that this might have been the first ever instance in Indian football of a club receiving a transfer fee. But his wasnt the only case.
We have paid transfer fee for players before, says Siddhartha Bhattacharya,Director,Prayag United. We paid Mahindra United Rs 2 lakh for the transfer of Goutam Debnath. We always do it professionally. If the player is interested,we speak to the officials of his current club.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan,meanwhile,are known to have an agreement that a compensation be paid to the parent club if any player moves between the two clubs,since both are owned by the same group.
Even so,Lesters transfer might still represent a step forward for Indian football. Clubs may have paid transfer fees in the past,but I think this was a first in terms of the quantum of money involved, says Chirag Tanna,PFCs head of operations. Because of that,it opens up a whole new revenue stream for clubs,when you talk about clubs being self-sustaining.
In the last three seasons,Indian football lost two of its biggest names in JCT and Mahindra United. Both clubs had a reputation for developing and nurturing young alent,but the lack of a proper transfer structure meant that other clubs could swoop down upon the graduates from their respective academies without paying their parent clubs a penny. Had JCT or Mahindra received transfer fees for the players they had nurtured,they might not have folded up in such a hurry.
Tanna says that the formation of the IPFCA (Indian Professional Football Clubs Association),earlier this year,has also contributed to a new climate of co-operation among the I-League clubs. Earlier,there was no way of knowing whether a player was available or not, says Tanna. The IPFCA has been very good in that regard. Clubs are now talking to each other a lot more.
In Lesters case,Prayag got in touch with PFC during the 2011-12 season,and inquired if he was available. With players such as Arata Izumi,Karma Tsewang and Shanmugam Venkatesh ahead of Lester in the pecking order,the Pune-based club was prepared to let go of the 25-year-old,but wanted to cash in on the fact that he still had a year left on his contract. After negotiations,Prayag agreed to pay Rs. 20 lakh for Lesters services.
We were also trying for Debabrata Roy,from Dempo, says Bhattacharya. We were prepared to pay the same amount,and the player was also interested,but Dempo werent ready for it. We then decided to enquire about Lester,and PFC were very professional in their approach and in conducting negotiations.