Minerva Punjab FC are one of the favorites to win the I-League title this season, and their professionalism has also been hailed by football fans. However, a certain incident has become a blot on the image of the Indian football club.
The Chandigarh-based side has issued a gag order against a sports reporter from The Tribune newspaper. The reporter was barred from attending the pre-match press conference of the Minerva Punjab vs Aizawl FC match, which was scheduled for Monday afternoon. Minerva won the match 2-0.
Minerva Punjab chief Ranjit Bajaj is yet to issue a statement on the incident, but The Tribune says that the club's support staff ensured that the reporter from the newspaper was not allowed to enter the Tau Devi Lal Stadium until after the presser on Sunday.
An official from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) told International Business Times, India that the I-League club was not happy with the reporter's works in the past and therefore barred the journalist from the press conference.
"Minerva Punjab have filed a case against the concerned reporter as they are not happy with some of his reports. This was communicated to the AIFF and right now we cannot comment if we will take any action on the club for barring the reporter from the press conference," the official said.
The Chandigarh Press Club is meanwhile apparently miffed by the club's actions, as per the newspaper.
"Since I-League is organized by All-India Football Federation, Minerva FC does not have the right to ban journalists from covering this tournament," it said in a statement issued on Monday.
Sports journalists on Twitter are also heavily condemning the incident.
"Disgraceful from Ranjit Bajaj & Minerva Punjab to stop a journalist from covering a press conference. Like most new #indianfootball team owners, he wants to suppress all negative reports, but doesn't have the necessary middlemen to do it the 'elegant' way [sic]," tweeted prominent Indian football correspondent Atanu Mitra.
Disgraceful from Ranjit Bajaj & Minerva Punjab to stop a journalist from covering a press conference. Like most new #indianfootball team owners, he wants to suppress all negetive reports, but doesn't have the necessary middlemen to do it the 'elegant' wayhttps://t.co/YZ99H7a9lO— Atanu Mitra (@Atanu00) February 26, 2018
"This is unacceptable if true. Hope @IndianFootball looks into this, how a PC at a competition run by them was handled, and takes appropriate action. We shall not be cowed by any gag orders [sic]," wrote another sports reporter Arka Bhattacharya.