East Bengal in the end got an investor with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing on Thursday a joint venture of the century-old club with city-based Shree Cement company and making a strong pitch for its inclusion in the Indian Super League this year. In an unprecedented announcement at the state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah, Banerjee said with the coming in of Shree Cement, East Bengal is “self-sufficient to total the formalities” to play in the ISL.
“No one is able to spend in this pandemic situation. But Shree Cement have come forward and finalised the negotiation. It gives a different level of delight and satisfaction,” Banerjee said following a assembly with club officials and Shree Cement at Nabanna.
“They (East Bengal) are now self-sufficient to total the formalities (to play in ISL). It’s like winning from the jaws of defeat. I’m hoping there will be no further obstacles,” she added.
She said she has requested the All India Football Federation to do the needful in order that East Bengal can play in the ISL this season.
“All problems are now solved. Today the entire fans will be happy that East Bengal will play in the ISL. Of class lesson, they have got to total the formalities. I have requested everyone including the AIFF.”
The main points of the deal used to be not disclosed, but it is learnt that Shree Cement will have a majority stake of 80 per cent and the club will seek for an entry into the ISL.
With less than three months left for the tournament to begin, it is still to be seen how FSDL, the ISL organisers, opens a slot for East Bengal’s final minute entry.
This year’s ISL will be played in three venues in Goa, likely starting in the later a part of November, amid strict health and safety measures to take care of the COVID-19 threat.
The chief minister had taken personal interest in the negotiation of the red-and-gold brigade, who, in their centenary year, were left in the lurch after their former investors Quess Corp pulled out in May.
East Bengal’s arch-rivals Mohun Bagan will make a foray into the ISL this season following a merger with ATK earlier this year.
“East Bengal Club are celebrating 100 years. In the middle, there used to be an uncertainty. They were being disadvantaged and Mohun Bagan had signed contracts. We did not want East Bengal to lose out,” Banerjee said.
East Bengal top official Debabrata Sarkar profusely thanked the chief minister for her personal intervention and said his club “will now total the entire formalities and make a strong tender to play in the ISL”.
“For the final seven months, she has been constantly supporting us. I bear in mind the day there used to be announcement of Mohun Bagan’s tie-up (with ATK). Didi (Mamata) called up and asked ‘what’s going to happen to you?
“She went on to add ‘I’m with you. I will be able to never overlook that. Even we had not dreamt of this type of object,” Sarkar said.
FSDL’s parent company Reliance’s Tarun Jhunjunwala said: We can try that East Bengal will play in ISL this year. There are some formalities which want to be completed. With East Bengal and Mohun Bagan together in ISL, this will be a new beginning of Indian football.
“We should not have reached this stage without the blessing of Didi,” he added.
A Shree Cement official said: “We are proud to be associated with East Bengal. Without the Chief Minister’s intervention, this partnership should not have been conceivable.”
Bengaluru-based Quess Corp, who had a 70 per cent stake in the club, terminated their tie-up in May, one year ahead of their deal to leave East Bengal without a sponsor.
East Bengal players’ contracts were also terminated from May 1, ahead of the particular date the use of the Force Majeure clause.
But the club remained hopeful with Banerjee having approached AIFF President Praful Patel in May to believe East Bengal’s entry into the ISL.
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