East Bengal are wooing Basundhara Group to fund their Indian Super League (ISL) ambitions for the 2022-23 season, after announcing a partnership with the Bangladeshi conglomerate’s subsidiary club Sheikh Russel.
Running into a long standing feud with their present investor, East Bengal are actively pursuing avenues to bring in cash to be retain their eligibility to play in the 2022-23 ISL, which demands a ‘franchise fee’ ranging between Rs 15-18 crore and a bank guarantee of around Rs 200 crore.
They are also yet to clear dues of Rs 1.42 lakh owed to seven footballers, failing which they could be banned from doing any activity in the transfer window.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, the club bestowed Basundhara’s MD Sayem Sobhan Anvir life membership last month in Kolkata. Last Monday, a four-member delegation, comprising East Bengal’s elected officials travelled to Dhaka to initiate talks of a joint venture.
Basundhara Group is involved in the running of three Bangladeshi club’s Sheikh Russel, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi and Basundhara Kings. On Wednesday, the two clubs agreed to work together for development of football infrastructure.
“At the invitation of Mr. Sayem Sobhan Anvir, Chairman, Sheikh Russell Krira Chakra, it has been decided in consultation with the officials of East Bengal Club that Sheikh Russell Sports Club and East Bengal Club will work together for the development of Asia football,” a statement from East Bengal joint secretary Rupak Saha said.
“We will develop football infrastructure, scout talents and raise the quality of football. This dream will be fulfilled by Sheikh Russell Sports Club and East Bengal Club. In order to fulfil this, both Bengals will work together in search of excellence.
” The two clubs are exploring the idea of organising a football tournament and begin a player exchange programme after visiting the Basundhara Sports Complex in Dhaka.
“This is a primary understanding between the two clubs, which will be followed by detailed talks,” East Bengal secretary Kalyan Majumdar told News9 Sports.
Having finished at the bottom of the 11-team ISL this season, the first time since 1928 that the 102-year-old club were last in any major domestic league, and with dispute over control of the club and share holding pattern between the club officials and investor reaching its nadir, speculation is rife that Shree Cement is keen to exit from SC East Bengal, the joint venture they formed with the club to play in the ISL.
Plagued by delay in assembling a squad and poor player selection, SCEB finished ninth in the 2020-21 ISL and went two step down this season.
Relations soured to the extent that Shree Cement refused to fund SCEB for the 2021-22 season and it needed an intervention from West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who facilitated coming together of the two parties in the first place, for the club to play in the ISL.
Criticism from all quarters after winning only one of their 20 games have only exacerbated the situation, with the blame falling on the investor as they controlled all activities related to the team.
“We have no intention of staying. We had already said that last year. We are contractually obligated to fulfil all our commitments till March. After that we will take a decision and inform the club,” a SCEB official, who didn’t wish to be named, told News9 Sports recently.
“The pending dues have got nothing to do with us. It is the club’s responsibility. We will fulfil all our commitments.”
Yet to receive any communication from their current investor regarding future of their joint venture, word is the club has initiated talks with several business powerhouses for a possible cash injection.
“Haven’t had any communication from them (Shree Cement). We are hopeful regarding many potential investors. We can’t bank on only one,” Majumdar said.
“Nothing concrete is there on the table so far. We are very keen on Basundhara but it depends on a lot of factors,” a club official, on condition of anonymity, said.