Former champions Chennai City FC were on Saturday barred from participating in the upcoming I-League after failing to comply with AIFF’s club licensing regulations.

The decision to bar them was taken by the All India Football Federation’s Club Licensing Committee.

“The AIFF Club Licensing Committee has taken strong exception to Chennai City FC (the “Club”) for failing to comply with most of the mandatory AIFF Club Licensing Regulations for the forthcoming Hero I-League 2021-22 despite giving additional opportunity after assurances from the Club including a detailed conference call,” the federation said in a statement.

Kenkre FC, who finished second in the I-League qualifiers, will replace the former champion. The I-League will kick off in Kolkata from December 26, but the fixtures are yet to be announced.

Besides being banned from participating in the I-League, the AIFF also imposed a FIFA transfer ban on the club, which does not allow them to sign players.

“With the Hero I-League scheduled to kick-off later this month, the committee wasn’t in any position to give any more opportunities to the club, and henceforth, has unanimously decided to not grant the exemption sought by the club, after having failed to receive the ICLS Premier 2 Licence of 2021-22 season.

“As a result of not receiving the Licence or the Exemption, the club is thus barred from participating in the Hero I-League 2021-22. The club is also serving a FIFA transfer ban which doesn’t allow them to sign players.”

In March 2019, Chennai City FC beat Minerva Punjab FC 3 1 to be crowned the 2018 19 I-League champions.

The statement further said, “In accordance with the powers vested, the AIFF League Committee proposed the name of Kenkre FC as a replacement for Chennai City FC in the Hero I-League 2021-22. This decision has been ratified by the AIFF Emergency Committee.”

“Kenkre FC, who had finished second in the Hero I-League Qualifiers (in October 2021 in Bengaluru), will be playing in the Hero I-League 2021-22.”

Chennai City FC, however, responded to the AIFF statement explaining the reasons for which they had requested the AIFF to grant them an one-year exemption from participating in the 2021-22 I-League campaign.

The club issued a statement following the AIFF announcement to clarify its stance.

(With PTI inputs)