A state BJP leader on Monday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting his intervention to include Kolkata-based football clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the Indian Super League (ISL). The letter, written by BJP state secretary Ritesh Tiwari, read: “This is to highlight the contribution of Bengal clubs in the history of Indian football, which is being ignored in recent times. The contributions of major clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, which have almost 100 years of glorious history in Indian football, have not been considered in Indian Super League (ISL). This year, two new clubs owned by Tata Group and Bengaluru FC joined ISL. I personally feel that by excluding clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal from this league, it is disowning contribution of Bengal in Indian Football. Request your intervention to solve this.”
The BJP leader was referring to a recent development where the two football clubs in question opted out of the IMG-Reliance-run ISL, as they were against giving franchisee fees, among other things. All-India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-president Subrata Dutta came out in support of the clubs, PTI reported. “Their annual budget is worth around Rs 15-17 crore and to expect them to pay a franchisee fee of Rs 15 crore is not fair. Even companies do not double their turnover in one year. They (AIFF and IMG-Reliance) should have been more flexible,”Dutta, who is also the president of state football body Indian Football Association, told PTI.
The two clubs will instead be participating in I-League, which is an older league, and will run parallel to ISL in the upcoming season. Speaking to The Indian Express, Tiwari said he was forced to bring the matter to the PM’s attention after receiving no response from AIFF and Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. “I had sent a letter to AIFF and Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel on June 19, but received no response from them. Today, I was forced to bring the matter to the PM’s notice. AIFF should immediately include the two Bengal footballs clubs in ISL, and should not focus only on profit generation from corporate-based clubs,” Tiwari said.