| Kolkata |
Updated: January 17, 2020 5:06:15 am
The Indian Super League (ISL) will get its first fan-based legacy club following the merger of Mohun Bagan and ATK. The significant tie-up was announced on Thursday, with the RP-Sanjiv Goenka (RPSG) Group acquiring the 80 per cent stake in the Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited. The new entity, using the brand names of Mohun Bagan and ATK, will be part of the ISL from the 2020-21 season onwards.
The ISL has been officially declared India’s premier football league, with the champions getting direct entry to the AFC Champions League group stage competition from the next season.
But the league so far was bereft of a crowd-puller. Some ISL clubs have been developing their fan-base, but Bagan’s entry is a different ball game altogether. It will fill the league’s popularity void.
At the same time, it’s sort of an end to a 130-year-old sentiment. Bagan, a club that had contributed to India’s freedom struggle through their triumph over East Yorkshire Regiment in the 1911 IFA Shield Final, had title sponsors before. In 1998, Vijay Mallya’s UB Group had partnered with the green-and-maroon, rechristening the team to McDowell’s Mohun Bagan.
Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Pvt. Ltd. chairman and club general secretary Swapan Sadhan Bose said, “As much as we want the romance of the maroon and green jersey and it’s 130-year-old tradition to continue, there comes a time when romance almost invariably requires a partner named practicality. To usher into the new era of football, you need bigger investments and a corporate force to take it forward. This is undoubtedly a harsh and the bigger truth.”
The merged club will come into existence from June 1 and according to a Bagan official, it will be called either Mohun Bagan ATK or ATK Mohun Bagan. The official asserted that there will be no change in the club colours and club crest. Bagan members will continue to get “discounted tickets” for all home matches.
ATK FC, owned and run by the RPSG Group, lived in the shadow of Bagan and East Bengal despite being the two-time ISL champions. Following the merger, they are going to be the ISL’s most popular club.
Both Bagan and East Bengal were against joining the ISL, since they opposed paying the franchise fee. As the ISL gradually started to supersede the I-League, their stand changed.
According to an ISL insider, as because Mohun Bagan and ATK are coming as a new entity, the merged club will have to register afresh and will have to pay the Rs 15 crore annual franchise fee.
As for East Bengal, it is learnt that the club management had a meeting with title sponsors Quess in Bangalore two days back to bridge the difference.
Bagan’s entry to the ISL might hasten their arch-rivals’ effort to play in the top tier. As per the AFC guidelines, the two legacy clubs can be part of the ISL anytime subject to fulfilling the financial criteria.
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