DISAGREEMENTS BETWEEN the Mohun Bagan fans and their football team's management continues to flare up on social media, even a year after their re-branded team was unveiled.
Over the past few days, Mariners have been vocal on social media with the demand to remove the 'ATK' prefix from the team, which is using the brand name ATK Mohun Bagan FC.
Although initially the Mohun Bagan fans welcomed the new investors, things turned sour when its branding strategy was perceived by the fans as disrespectful to the history and identity of Mohun Bagan. Initially ATK Mohun Bagan FC were touted as the "defending champions of ISL," with the team wearing 3 stars in the sleeve signifying the 3 ISL playoff wins of ATK FC.
This led to the first major spell of fan protest, mostly online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The hashtag '#RemoveATK' trended nationwide and many planned activities and celebrations around Mohun Bagan's ISL matches, including a fan-organized large scale multi-city screening in USA and Canada, were cancelled. A number of fan groups theatened to boycott the team. This led to the management backtracking on their branding strategy. The 3 stars were removed and a controversial ad was edited down. The team was henceforth officially referred to as an ISL debutant, not the defending champion, making it clear that ATK FC's records did not apply to this team.
The fan protests died down at this point and the team received widespread support. But the tensions flared again when the management decided to reveal a third kit in the middle of the season (That was kept secret unlike the home and away kits) which looked identical to ATK FC's third kit from 2019-20. The protests began anew and this time there were real world demonstrations. A group of fans held a protest in front of the Mohun Bagan club gate as well as the CESC House where principal investor Dr Sanjiv Goenka's office is situated (On a Sunday afternoon to avoid disruption of work).
Posters demanding the removal of the ATK prefix were plastered across Kolkata. The wave of protests culminated on the day of Mohun Bagan's Annual General Meeting where senior club officials, amidst protests and sloganeering, clarified that the team was a continuation of Mohun Bagan and the presence of 'ATK' in the team's name was a brand prefix. This led to the protests subsiding for the rest of the season.
But now tensions have flared again due to the launch of a new website which tries to insert ATK's history into the team, to the point where Mohun Bagan legends like Sailan Manna and Gostha Pal were placed next to players who spent 3-4 months at ATK FC like Fikru Teferra and Helder Postiga. The Mohun Bagan fans saw this as an insult to their legends and made their voices heard online. The '#RemoveATK' hashtag once again trended, this time just hours after the management announced a major signing that they had expected to result in a good response from the supporters.
As a result of this the site went offline and was lated re-published following some edits. This time, the Mohun Bagan legends and ATK FC notable players were kept in two separate lists. The Mohun Bagan fans, however, still appear to be not satisfied and have been vocal about factual inconsistencies and apparent errors still present on the website.
It does appear that the ATK Mohun Bagan FC management has adopted a strategy of modifying its official narrative to fit the fans' demand every time there's a wave of protest and hope for that to calm things down, but at this point it has become a cyclical sequence of errors followed by protests followed by half-hearted retractions that are not really helping to better the relationship between the fans and the management.