Kolkata: Emboldened by the West Bengal government's support, Indian football's traditional rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal on Tuesday decided they will not pay any franchise fee to play in the lucrative Indian Super League.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended full support to the Maidan heavyweights, according to IFA president Utpal Ganguli, who had a meeting with the CM.
"Mamata has promised to give full support to the clubs and said she would do anything possible. She asked the clubs to keep their heads held high and not compromise on the dignity. We will not play by giving franchise fees. It's a disrespect to Bengal's football. There will be no compromise in that," Ganguli said.
With the last date to bid approaching fast, the two clubs' officials wasted little time and met Sports Minister Aroop Biswas, who took them to the CM's office in the state secretariat Nabanna.
"We are grateful to the CM that she called us to listen to the problem in such a short notice. She took keen interest as she was not aware of the details.
"We made her understood how there's a move to dilute the I-League and give prominence to the ISL. There are barriers for two clubs to get inducted," Ganguli said, adding that they are waiting for the AIFF's response.
This happened less than 24 after they met with AIFF secretary Kushal Das in New Delhi with their proposal to waive off the Rs 15 crore franchise fee.
"The general secretary felt it's a workable suggestion and will let us know in a couple of days after talking to the president Praful Patel. The CM said to wait for their response but at the same time asked the two iconic clubs of Bengal to keep their heads held high and not compromise on the sanctity."
"We will now wait for the AIFF's proposal as we have now full support of the government. Their contribution to Indian football cannot be compared with a new franchise."
Ganguli further said this has no relation to the bid deadline.
Asked about their next move if the proposal is rejected, Ganguli said: "We will cross the bridge when it comes. We now have the CM's blessings."
Their second concern was to shift base with Atletico de Kolkata being the home side. But reportedly they are ready to shift base for first two seasons given the five-year venue exclusivity clause that was agreed upon by the ISL management and ATK in 2014.
The meeting lasted for about an hour and was attended by East Bengal club official Debabrata Sarkar, secretary Kalyan Majumder and assistant secretary Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta.
Mohun Bagan were represented by club secretary Anjan Mitra, assistant secretary Srinjoy Bose and finance secretary Debasish Dutta along with IFA president Utpal Ganguli.
Mohun Bagan meanwhile have decided to collect the bid document from Mumbai tomorrow.
"We want to play in the ISL and have decided to collect the ITB document tomorrow. East Bengal have already collected it. We don't want to take any chances," Anjan Mitra said.
East Bengal had picked up the ITB a few day ago.
Updated Date: May 24, 2017 08:53 AM