THE APPEARANCE OF A black-grey third kit that resembles a third kit of ATK FC has irked Mohun Bagan fans against their club & football team managements, leading to yet another outpour of anger online.
The source of this discord lies in a branding campagin that mischaracterizes the idenitity of the Mohun Bagan football team.
KGSPL (Kolkata Games & Sports Private Limited) who owned ATK FC, a franchise in the ISL, purchased 80% shares in the Mohun Bagan football team's holding company, taking over the Mariners' football operation. They dissolved ATK FC's registration but re-branded the Mohun Bagan team as ATK Mohun Bagan FC. This was accompanied by a misleading press release that called this team a "new football club", despite this team officially being a continuation of Mohun Bagan.
While these initial steps weren't received well by Mohun Bagan fans, the fanbase largely remained tolerant and welcomed their investors, choosing to focus on the underlying positives rather than the negative branding. But their patience broke when further "branding campaigns" tried to raise doubts about the team's identity.
Firstly, a new ISL branding policy tried to make the team wear 3 stars on the jersey's sleeve with the phrase "2019-20 defending champions" written underneath. This rule which was never used before gave the fans the impression that the league was trying to create a false impression this team was a continuation of ATK FC; directly contradicting the official registration of the team. This policy was repeated in the ISL 2020-21 fixture announcement video where the anchor repeatedly referred to ATK Mohun Bagan FC as "defending champions." But the last straw for Bagan fans broke when an ad showed the Mohun Bagan & ATK jerseys being dipped into a washing machine together.
This inconsistent & factless branding policy - sometimes claiming this team as a "new club" and sometimes saying it's a continuation of ATK FC - was seen by the fanbase as a smear campaign against Mohun Bagan. A wave of anger poured out online as fans threatened to withdraw their support from this team. The hashtag #RemoveATK trended as all major supporters' groups of Mohun Bagan joined in on the protests.
The management, facing the backlash, decided to take the diplomatic path out of it. The ISL policy was not applied & the 3 stars were removed from the sleeve. The claim of being 'defending champions' was also abandoned. The controversial washing machine sequence was also removed from the ad.
This led to a ceasing of all protests and the Mariners backed their team as usual. But late December in a surprising move the team took to the field wearing the aforementioned third kit (That had not been disclosed to the fans or put on sale in the past) against Chennaiyin FC. This sparked some anger again, but most were willing to show patience again. But yesterday, when Mohun Bagan wore the black jersey for the second time, the backlash began anew.
Major supporters' clubs decided to not post any updates of the match. One of the fans participating in the ISL fan wall, Joy Hait, decided to protest the controversial kit by displaying a black banner with a white cross. He was promptly removed from the fan wall.
A new wave of comments demanding the removal of the misleading prefix flooded the social media pages of ATK Mohun Bagan FC and accounts related to KGSPL.
A section of the fans also demanded that the elected officials of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club should be held responsible for failing to protect the club's identity and allowing the investors to manipulate the football team by imposing its own conflicting brand on it.
With the Annual General Meeting coming up on February 13th, this controversy may turn out to be the major topic of debate among the club members.