I-League giants Mohun Bagan have finally completed a merger with two-time Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK which will see the new entity compete in the ISL from 2020-21 season.
A new football club will be formed where Sanjeev Goenka’s RPSG Group will own 80% stakes while Mohun Bagan will have the remaining 20%. The club will have the brand names of both the clubs and will come into existence from June 1, 2020.
The entry of the two major clubs from Kolkata - Mohun Bagan and East Bengal - has been a topic for speculation since 2017-18 season when Bengaluru FC left the I-League to join the ISL.
Several meetings and discussions have been held between the parent body of the ISL, Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL), and the two clubs but nothing materialised until now. In fact, both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have publicly stated their intention to join the ISL in the past.
So what happens to East Bengal now that Mohun Bagan are confirmed to enter the ISL next season? The Red and Golds came very close to entering the ISL last season when talks were held between FSDL officials, AIFF senior officials and East Bengal investor Quess Corp’s Chairman Ajit Isaac in February 2019.
But Quess Corp later changed their mind and decided to stay back in the I-League. In fact, when Quess came on board as East Bengal's principal investors, the expectation among the pundits and fans alike was that the club will end up playing in the ISL. But that has not come to fruition.
A lot of things have changed in the past one year and Quess are all set to break their alliance with East Bengal after the ongoing season.
With their investor gone and Mohun Bagan joining the ISL next season, East Bengal are in murky waters now.
Then there is the matter of fan pressure. With their arch rivals joining ISL which is the top tier league in the country, East Bengal fans suddenly find themselves in a scenario where their arch rivals are playing in the top division and they might end up playing the I-League, which is a tier below the ISL.
The fans will want the club to find a way to ensure they also enter the ISL. But with Quess' impending exit, East Bengal have a bit of a conundrum on their hands.
Then there is the whole specatacle of the Kolkata derby which is by far one of the most anticipated matches in the country. Now, there is a real possibility that the derby will be limited to the Calcutta Football League (CFL). Which is a shame when you think about it.
Mohun Bagan have made their play and the ball is now in East Bengal's court.