East Bengal slipping into uncertainty as pandemic prolongs lockdown

East Bengal is undergoing a tough period as the club has been forced to put its centennial celebrations on hold and continues to look for a new investor.

East Bengal

There is a sense of disenchantment among East Bengal's members and millions of fans as the club continues to remain in the I-League while its traditional rival, Mohun Bagan, has an ISL berth after being acquired by ATK, the reigning ISL champion from the city   -  AIFF Media

East Bengal's date with history seems to have been scourged by the situation evolving out of the crippling coronavirus lockdown.

The club’s efforts to celebrate its centenary in a grand fashion have been hampered as has been its attempt to secure a berth in the Indian Super League (ISL).

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With its centennial foundation day barely a month away, there still is no news of a sponsor that would fund its activities in the new season. The club is currently managing without a patron after its ‘investor’ in the previous two seasons, Quess
Corp, severed its ties prematurely following disagreement over numerous issues.

Then came the news of Premier League giant Manchester United cancelling its plans of playing a pre-season friendly against East Bengal here in July. This virtually extinguished the club’s plans of making its centenary celebrations memorable.

- New financial tie-up in an "advanced stage" -

The pandemic and the prolonged lockdown also put paid to the possibility of a new financial tie-up, which according to a senior club official was in an “advanced stage”.

There is a sense of disenchantment among its thousands of members and millions of fans as the club continues to remain
in the I-League while its traditional rival, Mohun Bagan, has an ISL berth after being acquired by ATK, the reigning ISL champion from the city.

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“We will act once the AIFF announces a proper calendar. Everything is still uncertain because of the pandemic. We have had our plans before the season and will definitely decide on which way to go once the new season is given a proper shape,” said the most influential name in the East Bengal hierarchy, Debabrata (Nitu) Sarkar.

East Bengal began picking up players within days after the AIFF ended the previous season sparking talks about the club’s preparation to bid for an ISL berth. It picked a host of big Indian names both from the ISL and I-League have a significantly strong squad by now.

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“We have definitely signed the players with a tournament in target. But everything now depends on how the football calendar in the country shapes up. We hope to decide something by July,” Sarkar said.

- Quess Corp responsible to clear last season's dues -

East Bengal’s predicament is compounded by a number of players complaining about non-payment of dues of the previous season. “This is the responsibility of Quess Corp as they had the contractual obligation with the players in the previous season,” said a senior official.

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Quite a few footballers who had multi-year contracts with Quess East Bengal have approached the Football Players Association of India (FPAI) looking for guidance as they mull an option to approach the AIFF in seeking compensation from the Bangalore-based investor. Quess Corp had applied the ‘force majeure’ clause while terminating all the contracts of its players from May 1.

“The investor is yet to clear some of the dues which were supposed to be paid to the club. Now there is question of players’ payments. We are exploring all legal options to ensure that everyone get their dues,” the official added.

- Quess refutes allegations -

Quess Corp sought to dispel the allegations in a recent statement by saying it will fulfill all its obligations.

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“It has come to our notice that there are untoward allegations, most of them unverified, doing the rounds on how players of the football club have been denied their salaries as an outcome of the termination of the agreement between Quess Corp and EBFC. We would like to clarify that we are a responsible corporate and our obligations to all will be met. We have been working closely with our representatives in Kolkata to ensure that this transition happens smoothly and with minimal discomfort. The formalities pertaining to the termination of the JV agreement between Quess, QEBFC and EBFC is underway and is expected to be completed soon.”

The Quess chapter is virtually over for East Bengal, it now remains to be seen how the club prepares for the new challenges ahead.

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