For over more than a year there has been a myriad of speculation about ATK joining hands with Mohun Bagan. On Thursday the curtains were finally raised and the deal was made official.
From a neutral perspective, this arrangement should serve both the clubs in their best interests. ATK have the financial muscles to flex whereas Mohun Bagan bring with it a heritage and legacy that not many other Indian clubs can offer. The marriage of the two makes them an enviable and formidable force in terms of both sporting and marketing aspects.
A club with the stature of Mohun Bagan should definitely ply its trade in the top division of India and to do that you must be backed by a sound investor. It was necessary for the century-old club to do away with archaic ways of administration and embrace a professional structure. Without a serious investor, no sporting outfit in today's world can hope to reach the zenith.
Costs are involved to execute even a well-knit sporting project which includes luring the best players to your club, provide them with the best facilities to train and also set up a robust youth academy. And Mohun Bagan have been struggling financially on all fronts. both their ends meet.
Players have often complained that they have not received their salaries on time, the residential academy in Durgapur is in urgent need of renovation and one has to take a walk down memory lane to find out when was the last time Mohun Bagan had made a high profile signing whose name can be uttered in the same breath as that of Roy Krishna or a David Williams.
Even Swapan Sadhan Bose, secretary of Mohun Bagan accepts that it is time to be practical.
“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," commented Bose after completion of formalities.
Similarly, ATK has seen a sharp decline in popularity after the first three seasons. Especially after Sanjiv Goenka claimed that ATK is the most popular club in Kolkata.
"Have you ever seen this much frenzy for any other team in Kolkata? We are now much more popular than any other club in Kolkata.
"Why should Kolkata sacrifice? Every city has one team, then why Kolkata. Whom will Kolkata support if there would be more than one team," indicating that it should be ATK representing Kolkata.
These comments rubbed the fans of both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the wrong way. The stadium figures started to dwindle and ATK were battling to remain significant in a city that breathes football. And as former Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby said," Football is nothing without fans."
This merger with Bagan should definitely help them fill the stands of the Salt Lake Stadium. Moreover, the reach of brand Mohun Bagan is not only limited to Indian shores but in remote corners across the globe. A successful businessman like Goenka will definitely make the most of this exposure and make the outfit financially viable as well.
The two-time ISL champions are doing reasonably well on the pitch in this edition and if the stadium numbers start swelling once again then it is a win-win situation for both parties.