Kolkata: City football giants East Bengal have finally got an investor. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced a joint venture between the century-old club with the city-based Shree Cement company as multiple sources said that Shree Cement would have majority stakes in the new JV.
Banerjee said that with Shree Cement coming on board, East Bengal were “self-sufficient to complete the formalities” to play in the Indian Super League (ISL), the top tier competition of the country. At present, East Bengal are not part of the ISL.
“No one is ready to spend in this pandemic situation but Shree Cement have come forward and finalised the negotiation. It gives a different level of joy and satisfaction,” Banerjee said at a press conference at the state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah, following a meeting with club officials and Shree Cement.
“They [East Bengal] are now self-sufficient to complete the formalities [to play in ISL]. It’s like winning from the jaws of defeat. I hope there will be no further obstacles,” she added.
Banerjee further said she has requested the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to do the needful so that East Bengal can play in the ISL. “All problems are now solved. Today, all the fans will be happy that East Bengal will play in the ISL. Of course, they have to complete the formalities. I have requested everyone, including the AIFF, [for that],” she said.
When contacted by IANS, senior club official Debabrata Sarkar declined to divulge details of the deal. “I cannot share the details now. We will appeal to the ISL to let us play from this season,” Sarkar said.
Tarun Jhunjunwala of Reliance, the parent company of Football Sports Development Limited, said: “We will try that East Bengal play in ISL this year. There are some formalities which need to be completed. With East Bengal and Mohun Bagan together in ISL, this will be a new beginning of Indian football. We would not have reached this stage without the blessing of Didi,” he said, referring to Mamata.
A Shree Cement official said: “We are proud to be associated with East Bengal. Without the Chief Minister’s intervention, this partnership would not have been possible.”
Earlier, Bengaluru-based Quess Corp terminated the agreement with East Bengal on July 17 and gave the sporting rights back to the club. On April 25, Quess had activated the Force Majeure clause to unilaterally terminate all the contracts with effect from May 1.
The AIFF has now asked East Bengal to clear the air on players’ payments by September 4 after at least five footballers approached the Players’ Status Committee regarding their salaries that have remained unpaid by the club’s former investors.