Back in the August, when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee intervened to ensure new sponsors for Kolkata football giants East Bengal FC, there was still a long, hard road left for the club to register itself amongst the participating teams for this season’s Indian Super League (ISL). Now, with less than two months before the start of the flagship tournament, there seems to be light at the end of this tunnel for the Red and Gold fans.
On September 15, the club officially confirmed that the consortium of Shree Cement Ltd and East Bengal FC had placed their bid for this year’s ISL. The Bridge understands that league operators Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) are ready to make an announcement within this week. Sources say that East Bengal's entry into the ISL could be made official by Friday, the 25th of September.
It all started back in April when the Kolkata giants parted ways with then sponsors Quess Corp Ltd amidst a lot of noise regarding the direction in which the club was headed not conforming to Quess’ vision. Quess also delayed the transference of the sporting rights back to the club which further complicated the scenario.
With arch rivals Mohun Bagan having already announced their merger with ATK in January, this made the club management sit up and actively search for new sponsors amidst increasing pressure from fans.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown made it difficult to strike up a deal with interested parties and with the financial hit that the club had to take, there was no news on this front for the next few months. This meant that the club was staring at the possibility of not being part of the ISL, which has been christened as the premier footballing league of the country, at least for the upcoming season.
If this would have happened, it would not just have meant no Kolkata derby this season, but also ensured that the 100 year old club would not have featured in the country’s top division for the first time ever.
That was until August, when Mamata Banerjee took matters in her own hands and facilitated a collaboration between Shree Cement and East Bengal, and reinforced the idea that the Bengal government would stand shoulder to shoulder with all 3 big clubs from the city, the third club being Mohammedan SC, in the future. The investors reportedly own a 76% stake at the club and what would have made the fans happier is the fact that it has been confirmed that there will be no tinkering with the club’s name and logo, something that has been a huge bone of contention in the ATK-Mohun Bagan merger.
With FSDL inviting bids for an extra team to add on to the existing 10 clubs, a bid was submitted at the eleventh hour by the club, which has now been accepted. With the formal announcement now merely hours away, it gives the club less than a month to assemble a competitive squad with the transfer window shutting on the 20th of October.
The head coach position also has to be filled with a number of high profile names in the running. Moreover, a considerable amount of work still remains in terms of establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the resumption of training, health and safety protocols, logistics related to foreign player arrivals as well as deciding on the training venue once the team reaches Goa, the host state for this year’s ISL.
There is definitely a lot to do in a short space of time but fans of the club and football fans in general would be happy that the club is now headed in a positive direction after months of speculation and uncertainty.