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Mohun Bagan fans to hold protest ahead of annual members' meeting

A NUMBER OF Mohun Bagan fan groups are planning to stage a protest in front of the club premises tomorrow.

The protest is scheduled to take place before the club's Annual General Meeting (AGM) - where officials speak to members - begins inside the club.

The event is being seen as the next step in a series of demonstrations planned by the Mariners to oppose what they see as an attempt by the club's football team majority shareholders to compromise the team's identity by imposing the ATK brand upon it.

When KGSPL (Whose majority shares belong to industrialist Sanjiv Goenka) dissolved their former franchise ATK FC and invested in Mohun Bagan's football department, they named the team 'ATK Mohun Bagan FC.' Most Mohun Bagan fans, while not happy with the name, went along with it and overwhelmingly showed their support. But soon certain branding attempts that tried to mischaracterize the team as a "new merged club" stirred up strong disapproval from the fans, but the protests died down when a TV ad the fans took offense to was edited down and a new sleeve branding proposal was taken back.

But later, when the team appeared on the field in a kit that resembled the third kit of ATK FC from last season, the last straw of the fans' patience appeared to break. Multiple fan groups decided to boycott the team - including its matches and merchandises - demanding that the prefix 'ATK' be dropped from the team's name. Official merchandise of the team which were the number 1 bestseller on Amazon no longer trended on the site, while on social media the hashtag '#RemoveATK' trended multiple times.

During ISL matches, almost every single game saw 'fan wall' participants holding up signs that demanded the removal of the prefix.

Meanwhile some of the fan groups began to take the protest out to the streets for the first time. Posters demanding the removal of the prefix started appearing all over Kolkata and some fans held a protest in front of the club's gate and Victoria House - the headquarters of Sanjiv Goenka's company CESC - on a Sunday to avoid disruption but send a message.

The Mohun Bagan club officials, however, have not been supportive of the fans' demand and on multiple occasions signalled their disapproval of the protests through (Mostly anonymous) statements in the media.

However, as the AGM approached, some of the officials reportedly grew worried that certain club members may raise the issue of the brand conflict in the football department and the fans' protests against it. Given Mohun Bagan's AGMs have seen heavily heated debates (Which sometimes even came to pushing and shoving) regarding the club's footballing arm, the officials sought to limit the AGM to just 1 hour by scheduling an event where Shri Gurbux Singh, the Indian hockey legend, will be felicitated with the Mohun Bagan Ratna award.

This move was seen by the protesting fans as an attempt by the officials to suppress the voices of dissenting members. As a result, they have decided to hold a protest ahead of the AGM to make their voices heard.

A number of Mohun Bagan members and fans received automated phone calls informing them about the protest ahead of the AGM, asking for participation. The calls came from a Swedish number, and it has been speculated that certain fans who are living abroad organized that telephone campaign.

It remains to be seen if the fans' protest will be able to get the officials to acknowledge the issue during the AGM and address it.

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