Ponzi fall out hits football

As chit fund schemes in Kolkata come under scanner,clubs they sponsor likely to suffer

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Published: April 30, 2013 2:46:56 am

Football in West Bengal is set to suffer as a fallout of the multi-billion chit-fund scam that has rocked the state. After consortium Saradha group went bust,causing a loss of thousands of crores of investors’ money,other such firms have come under pressure. It directly affects club football as many teams receive funding from these collective investment scheme companies.

Take for instance the Janbazar Athletic Club,a team that recently was promoted to the top division of the Calcutta Premier League. The team is funded by Tower Group,another chit-fund driven company which finds itself in financial trouble and under immense pressure from its investors. If Janbazar can even field a team next season remains to be seen.

The scam has affected football in this state across divisions,including the ones right at the top. Saradha Group was one of Mohun Bagan’s co-sponsors in 2010-11 and the firm invested crores of rupees in the team as well as in their cross-town rivals East Bengal. Bagan also have NVD as a co-sponsor,but haven’t received the sponsorship money from them for the last few months. The club is now mulling on introducing a salary cap for the players next season.

No checks

“We go to different companies for money to run the club,” Bagan finance secretary Debashis Dutta said. “It’s not our job to know their whereabouts,because we have no authority. The tie-up is a case of pure demand and supply. Now,suddenly there’s a possibility that these companies might disappear,and in that case we have to act accordingly. We can no longer pay the players in millions.”

Besides a salary cap,Dutta also said he would put forward a proposal in front of other Kolkata I-League clubs to have a overall budget cap as well. “This is the only escape route,” he said.

Kolkata have three I-League clubs — Bagan,East Bengal and United Sports. It will be four next season after Mohammedan Sporting’s promotion to the top division.

UB Group is the title sponsor for both Bagan and East Bengal and has given close to Rs 8.5 crore each this season. But the football budget for the clubs goes beyond Rs 15 crore — the balance was where chit-fund companies came into the picture.

united in Fall?

The hardest hit of the top clubs could be United Sports. They built a star-studded team this season,roping in centre-half Gourmangi Singh (reportedly for Rs 1.2 crore),goalkeeper Subrata Paul (Rs 1 crore),striker Ranty Martins (Rs 1.3 crore) and former Costa Rica World Cupper Carlos Hernandez (Rs 1.2 crore). A tie-up with Prayag Group helped them build such a strong team. The group is one of the 70 companies against whom the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has received complaints.

“We haven’t faced any problems yet,” Nabab Bhattacharya,an official with United Sports,began confidently,before adding: “But you never know,the budgets of all the clubs will come down drastically next season but the top priority for us and also the players at the moment is survival. The monthly salary of the players is no longer guaranteed.

“A premier division club needs at least Rs 1.5 crore annually to run its football team. There’s every possibility that the companies will stop financing the clubs and survival will be at stake.”

The football connection

Mohun Bagan: One of Bagan’s co-sponsor is NVD Solar Limited. Contract amount for the ongoing season,Rs 2.5crore. According to the club,has given only 30lakhs.

East Bengal: Has Rose Valley as a co-sponsor that had their Collective Investment Schemes (CIS). Sponsorship amount undisclosed. The club also has Bluechip Projects as another co-sponsor – a company that deals in construction business and looks after East Bengal’s age-group teams. Sponsorship amount for this season is less than Rs 1crore.

United Sports: Has Prayag Group as their title sponsor. Has provided more Rs 8crore for the football team this season.

Mohammedan Sporting: Their title sponsor is Emta Group — a company that reportedly has control over the third largest chunk of coal reserves in India. Sponsorship amount for the ongoing season is Rs 2crore.

Other clubs: Smaller clubs like Bhawanipore,Aryan,Janbazar Athletic Club and a few others are hugely dependent on companies that deal in multi-level-marketing.

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