ISL: Time running out for East Bengal as Shree Cement's departure looms
It seems to be the end of the road for East Bengal in the ISL with multiple reports suggesting that the club and its main investors are set to part ways.
Ever since Shree Cement came on board in September last year, East Bengal's prospects of playing in the Indian Super League (ISL) for the foreseeable future started gathering momentum. With strong backing from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arriving at just the right time, fans of the legacy club would have been dreaming of reliving their glory days in a brand new competition. However, all of that might just turn out to be yet another false dawn with the club officials' conflict with principle investors Shree Cement seemingly reaching an unfortunate conclusion.
Monday, the 14th of June, is the deadline for Shree Cement to furnish the bank guarantee of Rs. 180 crore to the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). According to a report by The Telegraph, with the club officials still declining to sign the final agreement of the term sheet because of clauses that they think will violate club members' rights, Shree Cement are likely to transfer the sporting rights as well as all the liabilities that the club has accrued and end their association with the club.
The bank guarantee was not provided last year since all the formalities were extremely last-minute, and it was decided that it would be tended to at a later date. However, the final agreement has still not been signed, and it seems like Shree Cement Managing Director Hari Mohan Bangur has lost patience.
The report also suggests that if this happens, all player and staff contracts will become the club's liability and that they will also have to shell out Rs. 50 crore to the cement giants, an approximate amount that the organisation is said to have invested in the club.
Furthermore, since last week, the club has been faced with a transfer ban due to the non-payment of wages to former player Johnny Acosta. In addition, it has also emerged that a similar complaint has been lodged against the club by another former player, Jaime Santos Colado. This, on top of the ongoing disputes between the club and Indian players like Abhishek Ambekar, CK Vineeth and a few others on similar lines.
Meanwhile, another report from News18 claims that the 'mutual divorce' is just a matter of time following another round of meetings between the club officials and investors on Thursday which once again failed to throw up a resolution.
What makes the matter even more convoluted is the political focus that the deadlock has garnered. Besides Mamata Banerjee, who was directly involved in the collaboration last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) have also tried to intervene and push for a resolution.
It remains to be seen where the club goes from here, but as of now, the writing seems to be on the wall and in bold letters.