Salt Lake Stadium: No Rent for East Bengal, Mohun Bagan; 12 lakhs for ATK

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan officials
The two Kolkata giants have been allowed to play for free, but may not be able to hold all their matches at the venue.

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan received a major boost a week before the start of the I-League as Arup Biswas - the Sports Minister of West Bengal - announced  that the two clubs can use the renovated Salt Lake Stadium without paying any rent. It was decided after senior club officials Debasish Dutta, Debabrata Sarkar and Srinjoy Bose had a meeting with the minister on Saturday.

They will, however, have to pay a nominal amount of 15,000 per match to fund the cleaning of the premises after the match-day.

ATK, the Indian Super League franchise from the city, didn't get that lucky and will have to pay 16 lakhs per match to use the facilities. This amount includes 4 lakhs for installing and removing the branded hoardings before and after the match and 12 lakhs for playing.

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The difference in treatment is mainly due to the growing opposition against ATK among the region's most loyal football fans and Biswas, who was a vice-president of Mohun Bagan only two years ago, has chosen not to ruffle the feathers of the huge fan-base of the two old clubs.

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However, knowing very well that the city has a long-standing history of crowd troubles in football matches, the minister has very clearly communicated that clubs will have to bear the brunt in case any mishap happens. The clubs will have to deposit a caution money of 5 lakhs (10 lakhs for ATK) and any damage to the stadium may result in a fine of 10 lakhs and the team getting banned from the stadium for a year.

On the other hand, Biswas also demanded that matches can only be held in a three-day interval, which may result in the two clubs playing three of their home matches in Barasat or Kalyani. East Bengal, for example, will open their campaign against Aizawl FC on 28th November, only a couple of days after ATK play Pune City. It remains to be seen whether the clubs request AIFF to shift the fixtures by a day or agree to play the matches at some other venue.