MOHUN BAGAN OFFICIALS answered some long-raised questions about the club's football team - which uses the brand name ATK Mohun Bagan FC - regarding its identity and legacy.
At the club's Annual General Meeting, the football team was the central issue with multiple fan groups holding a protest with large banners and continuous sloganeering outside the club gates. The officials arranged for bouncers and a large police presence to stop the fans from entering the club, but in the end the fans never tried to do that; their loud voices from outside dominated the meeting inside as members raised the issues the fans had been concerned about.
Srinjoy Basu, general secretary of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and member of ATK Mohun Bagan FC board of directors, answered in clear terms when the question of the football team's identity was brought up by a member,
"As of today, there is no football club called ATK. You are right, there was a club for six years. As of today there is no ATK football club... this is an investor... this is a complex marriage, it will take time."
Debashish Dutta, financial secretary of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and another member of ATK Mohun Bagan FC board of directors, later spoke to the media to further clarify the matter,
"ATK has no affiliation, it's no longer a football club. That football club has been cancelled. It's just a brand now... when UB (United Breweries) was sponsoring us, they had brought in their brand McDowell's. Right now, our sponsors are Kolkata Games & Sports (KGSPL), their brand is ATK. They are using that brand as a prefix to Mohun Bagan, the same way McDowell's was used as a prefix."
Srinjoy Basu, too, brought up the old investment deal with United Breweries as a comparison to the current deal between Mohun Bagan and KGSPL, adding,
"The trophies we win under the investor will be written in history as trophies won by Mohun Bagan."
The protesting fan groups, including Mariners Base Camp and Mariners De Xtreme, had arrived in multiple processsions. Their primary demand was to remove the ATK prefix from the Mohun Bagan football team's name, and end the numerous false advertising campaigns that have portrayed this team as a 'new club'.
Speaking to the media, representatives of the fan groups said,
"We just don't want ATK as a prefix. We understand it's just a brand now, but it was associated with a different club, so it should not be latched on to our club. We are happy to have any other brand as our prefix, including RPSG or CESC. But when you add a different club's name to ours, it creates a brand conflict. We will not stand for that. Our protests will continue until they remove the ATK prefix."
Although the fans were not too vocal about their demands initially, their patience was tested multiple times. Mohun Bagan's third kit, which was not launched publicly like the home & away kits, resembles a third kit used by the erstwhile ATK FC. And some commentators have been accused of regularly referring to the Mohun Bagan team as 'ATK', contributing to the widespread misinformation. Both issues were addressed by the club officials today.
Regarding the third kit, Debashish Dutta said,
"No one minds the black colour of the third kit. The issue is with the design. I don't think that disagreement is unfair... I didn't watch ATK's matches last year so I didn't know that design... we have talked about it, it will never happen again. The team is supposed to play one more match wearing the third kit but we're trying to make sure they don't wear it."
Meanwhile, Srinjoy Basu said that the club has spoken to ISL co-owners and broadcasters Star Sports about the behaviour of the commentators in question,
"Some of the commentators who called the team just ATK, it was a slip of tongue. It was happening a lot initially but now it's much less... but some of the Bengali commentators who have repeatedly done this, that's deliberate. They have forgotten that a commentator should be impartial. I believe some of them don't even deserve to be commentators... but I am thankful to Star, because they have taken quick action about this."
Although the officials have responded positively to most of the concerns raised by the fans, they have remained silent on the main demand put forth by supporters which is to remove the ATK prefix from the team's name altogether.