There was mixed reaction from die-hard Mohun Bagan fans after the historic merger with ISL club ATK but assistant general secretary Srinjoy Bose exuded confidence that the association in no way will have a negative impact on the century-old club’s identity.
As per the deal, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, who are the principal owners of ATK, will acquire majority shareholding of 80 per cent in Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited.
The RPSG Group is estimated to invest Rs 60 crore per year as the club will be rechristened as “ATK-Mohun Bagan”, and will compete in the ISL 2020-21.
“It is clearly mentioned (in the MoU) that we are a supporter-based club... It’s very clearly understood between us and mentioned that club logo and colours will be preserved and the essence won’t be disturbed. It’s very clear,” Bose told PTI, even as a section of fans criticised the merger.
“Mohun Bagan fans always had a demand – to play in the ISL. But to play in the ISL, you needed money. And a supporter-based club always needs an investor, you have to join hands with a financial powerhouse,” Bose, son of renowned business magnet and club president Swapan Swadhan Bose, reasoned.
“They are a Kolkata-based group. At a time, when ISL franchises are going through a tough time, Goenka is managing the team solely. They are financially very strong too,” Bose junior wanted to look at the positive.
As the news trickled in, about hundreds of fans gathered outside the Mohun Bagan tent in the Maidan, evoking a mixed response.
“Mohun Bagan can merge with ATK we have no problem with that. But the name and the logo of the club should remain the same on the jersey. It’s a demand as a fan,” said a Mohun Bagan supporter waving the green-and-maroon jersey.
East Bengal fans club also reacted to the development.
“When we fought for #OneNationOneLeague, this is not what we meant... But, thanks @Mohun_Bagan for the rivalry and the memories. The Red and Gold will keep the fight on in #Maidan,” East Bengal fan club tweeted.
“The charm will go forever. A #MohunBagan fan, who is a good friend of mine, is bragging that #ATK choose Bagan over #EastBengal. I don’t know what to say! Is there any true Bagan fan happy with such a deal that involves ownership of the club? Pinch me!,” tweeted another fan.
But the Mohun Bagan top official justified the move saying that the fans would go on to realise that it’s for the future.
“People will say many things. When we roped in Cheema Okorie for the first time in the 1990s, people had said it would hurt the reputation. But now supporters are crazy about foreign recruits.
“When we struck a deal with liquor giants McDowell, we had drawn a lot of flak but if you see they ran the show in Indian football for 15 years.”
“There’s always mixed reactions. But till now whatever decisions we have taken in Mohun Bagan, at one point people have gone and realised that’s the best step. I’m sure it’s a very good step and everyone will realise.
“The essence of Mohun Bagan, logo, colour will be always be preserved. ATK is a brand owned by RP Sanjiv Goenka. A group that spends about Rs 50-60 crores in a year should have that much say,” he said about the team getting prefixed with ATK.
“Moreover, our members will get super high discount tickets to all the matches which is also a great return to the subscriptions they pay. ATK is already playing ISL, why is he investing money in Bagan? Because he wants to use the Mohun Bagan fan-base.”
“Everywhere to take anything to bigger heights, tie-ups have always happened. It’s a tie-up between two legendary institutions of the city. This merger will go a long way.”
The announcement comes three days before the I-League derby and Bose said this would no way affect the high-voltage clash.
“This has nothing to do with the present team. The new arrangement will only come into effect from 2020-21. It has nothing to with the upcoming derby,” he said.