Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have the financial resources to enter the Indian Super League (ISL) but opted not to do so after developing doubts about the league's format and structure, top officials of the two clubs said in Kolkata on Monday.
After the Federation Cup ended last May to signal the end of the domestic season, there were a lot of developments with respect to the big three of I-League - Bengaluru FC, East Bengal & Mohun Bagan - joining a revamped Indian Super League. In fact, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC picked up the bid documents as well for new teams.
However, while Bengaluru FC went ahead with their bid and entered the ISL as a new franchise, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan opted not to with reports emerging that the two Kolkata giants did not want to pay a huge entry fee to play in the IMG-Reliance owned league.
Debasish Dutta, Mohun Bagan financial secretary, said that the franchise fee was never a factor in their decision to ultimately stay away from the ISL.
"We had the financial capability of paying the franchise fees, but we didn't want to pay it on principle. We are not against the ISL, but the AIFF should have a proper plan and structure in place," he said with East Bengal Assistant Secretary Dr. Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta by his side.
Dutta also asserted that Mohun Bagan and East Bengal wanted the Kolkata derby to be held at the Salt Lake stadium, which is expected to be the home ground of ISL side Atletico de Kolkata. With the ISL and I-League set to be held simultaneously, there are doubts that the Kolkata giants would be able to play their home games in the iconic stadium.
"We want the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal I-League Derby to be played at the Salt Lake Stadium. Not only that, we also want to play some of our key matches at that venue. We will be taking up the matter with state sports minister Aroop Biswas soon," he said.
"If the stadiums are full when Bagan or East Bengal play, that will send a message to the AIFF and the ISL. They will perhaps then understand the legacy of these two clubs," Dutta added.