Less than 24 hours after being handed over the sporting rights by Shree Cement, East Bengal asserted that they would announce a new investor "within 15 days" and will continue to play in the top-tier Indian Super League.
Bangladesh conglomerate Bashundhara Group, which owns Bashundhara Kings club, has emerged as the frontrunner to invest in East Bengal. But they will need to complete some formalities before coming on board.
"We have held preliminary discussions with the Bashundhara Group who are currently in talks with the Prime Minister's Office," East Bengal's top executive committee member, Debabarata Sarkar, said at the club tent on Wednesday.
"Once they receive a green signal, our talks will advance. We are confident of announcing our decision in the next 15 days or so." By inking a partnership with East Bengal, Shree Cement Limited (SCL) bought a majority stake in the club on September 2, 2020, paving the way for its last-minute entry into the ISL.
In its inaugural season under Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, it finished ninth, while in the last edition it reached a new low, ending at the bottom of the table in the backdrop of a row between the club and SCL over signing of the final agreement.
So the association had to be "terminated" as per the initial term sheet signed by East Bengal and, on Monday, SCL handed over the sporting rights, making them a free club to bid for a new investor.
On the prospect of playing their third season in ISL, Sarkar said: "We'll definitely play in ISL. Not only us, Mohammedan Sporting too will play in the ISL in the coming days.
"Other than ISL, we'll look to play in all tournaments possible. We'll prepare four different teams if the need arises." "I can't say whether East Bengal will be able to become champions or not. But I can assure you that we will improve on our ISL show.
"The legacy and fan base of East Bengal is created by our consistent performance, we always finished inside top three, never slipped beyond six," he said, taking a dig at the "mismanagement' by SCL." After coming on board, Shree Cement had promised a long-term association with the red-and-gold brigade but trouble started brewing before the second season over the term sheet.
Sarkar added, "Our club has crossed 102 years but never ever we faced such a crisis. It is because the football infrastructure in the country has changed 'one fine morning'.
"Despite the challenges, we're confident of putting up a strong team and we will be in the championship race," he said, adding that the process to identify and sign players for the next season is already underway with the help of former players.
"We have asked our ex-players to come up with suggestions regarding the recruitment. They have sent us a list of players from the I-League. They'll also be present at Santosh Trophy venues to scout players." He also said they would try to play under the aegis of 'East Bengal Private Limited', without tinkering with the iconic name and logo.
"We'll bring East Bengal back to where it belongs in a couple of years," he concluded.
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