ATLETICO DE KOLKATA majority stakeholder Sanjiv Goenka has sparked controversy again by claiming monopoly over the city of Kolkata in the new re-structured top division that will be instituted from 2017-18.
Talking to Bengali daily Ei Samay, Goenka said in the new top division league, the only team from Kolkata would be the franchise under his ownership. Clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan who have nurtured the football culture in the city for more than a century, according to him, do not deserve a place in the top league,
"There will be only one team from Kolkata. Just like in IPL... I know we'll play as the one team from Kolkata."
Goenka's claim of exclusivity comes from his purchase of the Kolkata franchise in the ISL, as a rented franchise in a private tournament. But now that ISL is to become the new, officially recognized top division league in India and its franchises must become actual football clubs with AFC licenses, efforts have begun to allow the biggest clubs from the current top division I-League - Bengaluru FC, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan - to play in the ISL from next season; and claims of exclusive rights over a given city do not hold as much weight, especially in a place like Kolkata. But the ATK management seem to be unhappy with this development. In the past, an ATK official had suggested that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan must move out of Kolkata if they want to play in ISL.
Part of the reason why ATK do not want the Kolkata clubs to play in the ISL is the fact that the franchise depends on the second-hand support of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan fans to maintain their popularity; something they fear will evaporate the moment they are seen as rivals of the two big clubs whose influence in the state of West Bengal goes beyond the field and football into culture and folklore.
Goenka's comments drew sharp criticism from both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan club officials and fans, with many viewing ATK's attitude as exclusionary and anti-competitive.