Kolkata: After extensive deliberation, the two major football clubs of Kolkata—Mohun Bagan and East Bengal—have decided not to bid for the three new slots being opened up from this year’s Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament, even as Bengaluru Football Club on Thursday submitted its bid.
Teams willing to take part in the annual event had time till Thursday to submit their bids. Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL)—a company founded jointly by Reliance Industries Ltd and the International Management Group to run ISL—had said on 11 May that it will add up to three new teams to the eight existing ones for the next two years.
FSDL declined to immediately disclose how many bids it had received. A spokesperson for the company said it would be announced on the day the bids are opened.
Even as a spokesperson for Bengaluru FC said the JSW Group-backed club had submitted its bid to join the ISL, officials at the two Kolkata heavyweights said they had taken an in-principle decision not to pay the annual franchise fee of Rs15 crore each. They, however, have still not given up on ISL.
Mohun Bagan general secretary Debasish Dutta said ISL couldn’t shut its doors on the two most celebrated football clubs in India. His club along with East Bengal will continue to hold discussions with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the governing body for the sports, on the issue, said Dutta.
East Bengal club official Debabrata Sarkar said the two clubs are firm in their decision that they would not pay the franchise fee to FSDL, and that they would seek to resolve the issue through discussion with the AIFF.
The two clubs are also disinclined to represent any city other than Kolkata in the inter-city football tournament, but they may have to because Kolkata is already represented in the ISL by Atletico de Kolkata— a team co-owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group.
Mint had reported on 15 May that Mohun Bagan and East Bengal were likely to pass up the opportunity to get into ISL even as Bengaluru FC was weighing the pros and cons. Finance is the key problem for the two clubs. Taking part in ISL could mean a financial burden of at least Rs40 crore, a co-owner of one of the existing ISL teams had said earlier, asking not to be identified.
It is feared that ISL could soon trump the parallel I-League to become the premier football tournament in India. Both leagues are recognised by the AIFF and it was at one point proposed that the two could be merged in two years after the fifth edition of the ISL.
A decision on which of the two leagues is to be treated as the more representative one will be taken after deliberations with the Asian Football Confederation early next month, said Kushal Das, general secretary, AIFF.
Earlier this week, officials of the two clubs along with those of the Indian Football Association (IFA)—the governing body for the sport in West Bengal—met chief minister Mamata Banerjee to brief her on the issue. The chief minister said her government would back the two clubs in every possible way, said IFA general secretary Utpal Ganguly.
The two clubs have given their charter of demands, and it is expected that a solution will be found through further discussion with all stakeholders, added Ganguly.