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Merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan confirmed

Indian Super League team scarves prior to an AFC Asian Cup match between India and Bahrain on January 14, 2019 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

The merger of Kolkata-based Indian football clubs ATK and Mohun Bagan to form a new team playing in the Indian Super League has been confirmed.

In a press release, the ISL said conglomerate RPSG Group, the current owner of ATK, will acquire 80 per cent of Mohun Bagan, with the remaining 20 per cent being held by Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Private Limited.

The merger creates the biggest football club in the region of India where football is most popular – West Bengal, and the city of Kolkata. Mohun Bagan is one of the oldest and best-supported teams in the country, and has been playing in the I-League, one of India’s two major leagues alongside the ISL. ATK was launched in 2014 to compete in the ISL, which launched the same year. The ISL is a more lucrative league for teams to play in, and this year the All India Football Federation confirmed it as the country’s top-tier league, with the I-League to become the second tier.

Indian media reported that the merger would benefit Mohun Bagan by giving it access to the greater revenue on offer in the ISL, and ATK by giving it the larger fanbase of its new partner team.

Goal.com reported that the chairman of Mohun Bagan, Swapan Sadhan Bose, said: “As much as we want the romance of the Maroon and Green jersey and it’s 130-year-old tradition to continue, there comes a time when romance almost invariably requires a partner named practicality. To usher into the new era of football, you need bigger investments and a corporate force to take it forward. This is undoubtedly a harsh and the bigger truth.

“In this context, I am very thankful to one of India’s most well-known industrialists and Kolkata’s very own Dr Sanjiv Goenka for his investment through RPSG. Their vision on Indian football aligns with our philosophy and our combined forces will surely take the club to a bigger and greater heights. In this respect it is a red-letter day in the history of this iconic institution.”

Dr Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of RPSG Group, said: “RPSG Group, which has a 200-year-old legacy, is humbled and honoured to welcome Mohun Bagan with folded hands and open arms… Personally, it’s an emotional reunion for me as my father Late Shri R P Goenka was a member of Mohun Bagan.”

Bose added: “I thank Dr Goenka profusely for partnering our dream. His father, the late R P Goenka, was a good friend of mine. Apart from his legendary acumen as a businessman, RPG had a huge fondness for Mohun Bagan and was one of our members. Whenever we met, business took a back seat and discussions on the club moved in the forefront.

“I can assure millions and millions of Bagan supporters spread across the globe, that the poetry will continue, now that the prose is ready to lend a helping hand.”

The merged club will come into existence from June 1 this year. Goal.com reported that the club’s name is expected to be ‘ATK Mohun Bagan Football Club’. Its first season will be the 2020-21 ISL, and it will also compete in other AIFF competitions. Members of the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club will get discounted tickets for all home matches.

Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was established in 1889 and has won over 100 major titles. Its historic significance to Indian football was cemented when it won the IFA Shield in 1911, defeating British Army team the East Yorkshire Regiment in a game that came to symbolise India’s struggle for independence from the British Empire.