East Bengal club’s financial woes have trickled down to their cricket division, with the team staring at a Rs 90-lakh void including player payments. It is learnt that contracted cricketers haven’t received any money for the ongoing season, forcing some of them to write to the club’s majority stakeholder Quess Corp Ltd and the club management. Quess, however, has already decided to terminate the association, with the partnership ending on May 31. According to a senior club official, unless East Bengal rope in a new investor, their future appears bleak.
“Quess bought the sporting rights of both football and cricket divisions after entering into a partnership with our club. The company took care of all cricketing expenses, including player payments for the 2018-19 season. For the ongoing 2019-20 season, the executed player agreements had (Quess CEO) Sanjit Sen and cricketers as signatories. Unlike the previous season, the club is not a party to the agreements this term. The club only played the role of a negotiator,” the East Bengal official told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.
Quess spent Rs 65 lakh for the cricket team for the 2018-19 season. For the 2019-20 term, the company initially wanted to build a stronger cricket team, as the club was celebrating its centenary. Accordingly, East Bengal signed up Bengal Ranji team captain Abhimanyu Easwaran and his state team colleagues Abhishek Raman, Arnab Nandi, and Shreevats Goswami. Consequently, the club’s cricket expenditure shot up to around Rs 90 lakh.
“Quess had promised to make a payment before last year’s Durga Puja. But that didn’t materialise. No payment has come as yet and we are dealing with a Rs 90-lakh vacuum. Some players have written to Quess and the club management. Let’s see what happens. Our partnership with Quess ends on May 31 and unless we get a new sponsor/investor, the club’s future is pretty bleak,” the official said.
This paper understands that East Bengal footballers, too, haven’t received their salaries since mid-March after the 2019-20 football season came to an abrupt conclusion due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sources said, Quess wrote to the players and coaching and support staff, asking them to inform by May 15 if they are agreeable to the company’s offer to sign off after receiving their salaries till April 30. Quess has expressed its inability to pay May’s salaries citing force majeure, notwithstanding that the players and coaching and support staff are contracted till May 31.
Meanwhile, the red-and-gold brigade has all but given up hope on playing the Indian Super League (ISL) next season. With the Covid-induced economic depression setting in, finding a new sponsor has become even tougher. Being a legacy club, East Bengal will get a direct entry into the ISL, but must cough up an annual franchise fee of Rs 15 crore, which is beyond their resources at the moment. Grapevine has it that only a top-level political intervention can secure East Bengal’s participation in the next edition of the ISL.
A year previously though, East Bengal came very close to joining the ISL bandwagon after Quess acquired a 67 percent stake in the club in July 2018. The agreement between East Bengal and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) had reached finality for the Kolkata giants to be part of the ISL from the 2019-20 season onwards, before Quess backed out at the eleventh hour. It was said to be a reason why the relationship between the company and club officials turned sour.
When contacted, Quess chief executive Sen said: “We aren’t going to be interacting with the press till the 31st. After that if you contact, we can talk.”
Some East Bengal cricketers, it is learnt, are considering taking their concerns to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). But a CAB official said the state association won’t get involved. “Essentially, it’s a club matter and the association’s involvement will lead to further complications.”