“We are in talks with Bashundhara, the door is open for Shree Cement too” – East Bengal’s Debabrata Sarkar on the club’s future investors and rumored signings
In their rich 101-year history, seldom have East Bengal fared as badly on the football pitch as they do in the ongoing edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). The club’s ISL avatar, SC East Bengal, are currently languishing at the bottom of the table with just 10 points from 18 matches.
The Red and Gold Brigade’s entry into the ISL was nothing short of a thriller. A couple of years ago, after they parted ways with their former investors Quess Corp, the Kolkata-based club approached several corporate bigwigs to attract investment in their ISL sojourn.
However, nobody was willing to come on board until the Bangur family-helmed Shree Cement Limited accepted the proposal in September 2020. The partnership was brought to fruition by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a joint venture named Shree Cement East Bengal Foundation was formed on the basis of a term sheet.
Buoyed by a massive cash injection from Shree Cement, East Bengal made a last-minute foray into the ISL. The investors appointed a sports management company to oversee the club’s football operations, while a strategic advisor has been facilitating communication between the two parties so far.
The East Bengal faithful were overjoyed to see their beloved club enter the ISL after months of uncertainty, but the feeling was short-lived. Under the stewardship of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, SC East Bengal settled for a lowly ninth position in their maiden ISL campaign. Their current season has been worse as a slew of off-field controversies have proved detrimental for the team’s performance under three coaches – first Manolo Diaz, then Renedy Singh (interim) and now Mario Rivera.
In addition to the team’s lackluster showing in the ISL, the escalating feud between East Bengal and Shree Cement regarding the final agreement has engendered speculation that the cement giants are likely to terminate their partnership soon.
Amidst such rumors, East Bengal’s top officials granted a warm reception and lifetime membership to Bangladeshi business tycoon Sayem Sobhan Anvir at the club tent on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Sobhan Anvir is the Managing Director of Bashundhara Group, a leading Bangladeshi conglomerate that owns the reigning Bangladesh Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings.
During the event, East Bengal officials and Mr. Sobhan Anvir spoke about the possibility of forging an Indo-Bangla alliance, with the latter even expressing his wish to patronize the century-old club in the near future.
Sportskeeda can also confirm that a confidential meeting was held between the two parties at a luxury hotel in Kolkata on Thursday evening. Although the agenda of the meeting hasn’t been revealed yet, a source tracking the development has said that Bashundhara Group is currently weighing options to invest in the Indian football market.
Does that mean Bashundhara Group is set to be East Bengal’s next investor? When will Shree Cement return the sporting rights to the club? Have the Red and Gold Brigade already started assembling a team for next season? Which other companies are in contention to invest in East Bengal going forward?
We recently caught up with senior East Bengal official and executive committee member Debabrata Sarkar to get answers to these questions. Here’s what he had to say.
On East Bengal’s talks with Bashundhara Group
Mr. Sobhan Anvir is very passionate about football. Besides owning Bashundhara Kings, he is also the chairman of Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra, the club which is named after the son of former Bangladesh President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bashundhara Kings, on the other hand, have enjoyed a trophy-laden run in domestic football since being established in 2013. Recently, they inaugurated a state-of-the-art football stadium called the “Bashundhara Kings Arena”, which became the first privately-owned ground to host a Bangladesh Premier League match. The news of this facility has reached top European clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid, who are apparently interested in running a franchise with Bashundhara Kings.
On being asked if Bashundhara Group are ready to patronize East Bengal Club from next season onwards, Debabrata Sarkar told
“We first approached them a few days ago. We still haven’t reached a stage where we can reveal anything to the media, but I can tell you that negotiations [with Bashundhara Group] are going on.”
It should be noted that East Bengal Club cannot rope in a new investor until they get their sporting rights back from the Shree Cement East Bengal Foundation. Have the current investors apprised the club of their decision to terminate the alliance at the end of the season? Sarkar refused to comment on the contentious issue, saying:
“No comments. Mr. [Hari Mohan] Bangur is a gentleman and we don’t have any conflicts with Shree Cement. If they want to stay with us by agreeing to our terms and conditions, we’ll certainly welcome their decision. They need to give us a proper proposal for that.”
Source : Sports Keeda