We are being unfair to Bagan and EB, says AIFF Senior VP

Football is club based and it will be in the best interest of the sport in India if the premier league of the country incorporates clubs with sufficient fan base like everywhere in the world where football enjoys popularity. The senior vice-president of All India Football Federation (AIFF), Subrata Dutta came in support of the Asia’s oldest clubs – Mohun Bagan and East Bengal – which have been left out of the glitzy Indian Super League (ISL) for not paying the franchise fee.

“Football is primarily club-based. The more we develop infrastructure and bring out quality players, the better it will be for the sport in the country,” Subrata Dutta said while speaking in a panel discussion organised by the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club on the occasion of world Sports Journalists’ Day.

“The ISL would not have been born if the I-League was not there. We are being unfair to Mohun Bagan and East Bengal as they are the clubs with the biggest fan base of the country,” Subrata Dutta said. “The ISL is just three years old and I have doubts if any of these clubs have any signboards. They are mostly managed by the employees of a corporate boss, who has decided to buy a franchise,” he added.

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal joined ranks to support the argument put forward by Subrata Dutta, who is also the president of the state body – Indian Football Association. Saying that they were apprehensive about the seriousness with which the AIFF and its marketing partner – IMG Reliance – would be treating the I-league (which will run concurrently with the ISL this season), the two city giants asserted that they will draw more genuine fans than the teams in ISL. “We will show our real strength on the ground. Like every time we will ensure overflowing galleries and by that we will show our real merit as real football clubs,” Mohun Bagan’s finance secretary Debasish Dutta said.

“It is nice that a corporate giant like Reliance is funding football but the AIFF failed to play its part when it could not convince its marketing partner to revamp the I-League instead of forming a separate tournament formed out of corporate teams,” East Bengal assistant secretary Santi Ranjan Dasgupta said. The panel discussion also included legendary striker and the present technical committee chairman of AIFF, Shyam Thapa, who also supported for the traditional clubs.