THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ISL franchise Atletico de Kolkata and Spanish top flight club Atletico de Madrid has come to a not-so-happy end.
The collaboration, which gave the Sanjiv Goenka-owned franchise its very identity as the newborn Kolkata franchise adopted the name and colours of the La Liga giants, gave Atletico de Madrid 25% of the stakes in the team. For the first 3 years, instead of making monetary investments, the Spanish club was supposed to take care of the footballing operations, which ranged from signing foreign players, appointing the manager, providing training facilities during pre-season... pretty much most of the important things about running a professional football team. From the 4th year onwards, they were meant to contribute towards the team budget as well.
Meanwhile Goenka employed some of his staff -- most of whom primarily work at his company CESC limited -- to oversee in-house aspects like marketing, organizing celebrity presence at home matches, signing some of the Indian players (when they did not have the convenience of a draft), and some minor matchday operations that were not controlled by the league organisers, IMG-Reliance.
In these 3 years, Atletico de Kolkata won the ISL twice, despite never managing to finish at the top of the league table. But apart from that, they had little presence in Indian football. Their proposed academy is still dragging its feet in construction stage; they have an 'ATK Junior' team playing in the 3rd division (5th tier) of Calcutta Football League; and the franchise suffered nationwide embarrassment when they failed to form a Under-19 team that could play in the IFA Shield earlier this summer.
Speaking to a Spain-based sports outlet Marca, an Atletico de Madrid official revealed that the Spanish club was not happy with the lack of effort from ATK to make sufficient contributions in developing football in India. Hence they decided to cut ties that they deemed to be fruitless,
"For us, India is a very important country and Calcutta a very dear city... but we either need to develop or leave."
Atletico de Madrid's departure means ATK will lose its patented Spanish flavour that has delivered the goods for them in terms of attractive branding and on-field success over the past 3 years. Over the past few months, the franchise has been reported as talking to some English clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to take over the executive role that Atletico de Madrid had in ATK.
Recently, with the appointment of former Bengaluru FC head coach Ashley Westwood as their technical director, ATK are showing signs of finally trying to run the franchise independently, with their own staff undertaking all the diverse operations that a license-aspiring professional club needs to execute. But it remains to be seen if ATK decide to tie up with another European club to ensure the flow of discounted foreign players and externally-nominated coaches does not dry up.