East Bengal in crisis after investor pulls out

The decision came on the back of a continuing impasse with the legacy officials of the 101-year-old club. The officials have put up a fresh list of demands and have been refusing to sign the final contract after giving their consent in the term sheet when the agreement was signed last year.

FILE PHOTO: East Bengal fans during their protest against managing authorities of the East Bengal Club, near club premises in Kolkata,Wednesday, July 21, 2021   -  PTI

Kolkata football giant East Bengal found itself in crisis on Monday when its investor Shree Cement pulled the plug on the deal it had entered with the club roughly one year ago.

The decision came on the back of a continuing impasse with the legacy officials of the 101-year-old club. The officials have put up a fresh list of demands and have been refusing to sign the final contract after giving their consent in the term sheet when the agreement was signed last year.

Shree Cement conveyed its decision in a letter addressed to the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Ms. Banerjee had been instrumental in getting the cement behemoth to fund East Bengal’s entry into the Indian Super League in 2020. Ms. Banerjee, who had been asking both the parties to end their differences and ensure the signing of the final contract, conveyed her “dismay and annoyance” at the company's unilateral decision to pull out of the contract. She later said that she would make an effort to convince the investor to stay back.

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“The investor has, through a letter, conveyed to me that they won’t be able to continue (their deal) with the club. I think it is a bad attitude on their (the investor’s) part as they kept the club waiting for such a long time and then suddenly decided to part ways. I am both sad and displeased with this decision. I do not understand the reason why they (Shree Cement) kept on discussing the issue for almost a year and then decided to back out,” Ms. Banerjee said during her customary media briefing at the State Government headquarters ‘Nabanna’ on Monday.

“The investor recently met me to say that the impasse will be resolved by (August) 16. Then why this change in the stance all of a sudden? I cannot fathom the mystery behind it. It is sad for a club like East Bengal, which has a rich legacy. We will also let them (the investor) know our displeasure. We will also try (to resolve the issue) though time is very short. I feel that everyone should come forward to help East Bengal out of its distress,” the Chief Minister said while keeping the option open for renegotiation.

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The East Bengal club officials held an emergency meeting after hearing the news. However, they later announced that the deal was still on as the club had not received any termination letter from Shree Cement. “We are still hopeful of a positive outcome and feel we will not be missing the ISL this year,” said Debabrata Sarkar, the key East Bengal functionary who had been leading the legacy officials against signing the final contract until the investor agreed to their demands. “We are yet to receive any letter from Shree Cement regarding its decision. We will be thinking of the next step only when we receive the letter officially,” Sarkar said after attending the club’s working committee meeting in the evening.

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