Despite the odds stacked against them, century-old football club East Bengal continues to hope of being a part of the upcoming season Indian Super League (ISL) and finding a sponsor to end its financial woes. A senior club official said that the team is making headway with regards to finding a new investor and is hopeful than before about entering the top tier of Indian football.
Debabrata Sarkar a.k.a Nitu da, an executive committee member of the club said fans need to be patient.
“See the doors are still open for us to play in this seasons’ ISL. Earlier we were 50 percent confident of playing in the ISL but now definitely there has been headway into negotiations for a potential sponsor and we are 80 percent sure now,” he told indianexpress.com
Sarkar said the club was making progress in the final round of talks and “remain hopeful of reaching our target this season.”
“The pandemic is leading to the delay and I hope fans understand that. We are all trying to get this deal through and announce a new investor,” he said.
Earlier, ISL and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) indicated the tournament would feature only 10 teams, which meant no more additions for the upcoming season. It signalled the end of the road for the club that is already struggling to stay afloat. However, no official announcement has been made.
On 7 August, a series of events unfolded on social media that triggered fresh speculation among fans.
An East Bengal Club Facebook page began talking up an interview with Sarkar. Interviewer, journalist Boria Majumdar, tweeted about the club’s possible participation in the ISL but deleted the tweet later.
However, as speculation spread, social media posts vanished mysteriously. Majumdar later tweeted to say that fans should see the interview ‘to get all answers to the questions’. However, when the interview aired there was no reference to the ISL.
I am sorry but please don’t barrage me with questions on what Nituda said. Hear the interview for yourselves. Thats the best way to know what he is saying.
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) August 7, 2020
Meanwhile, the dates and venue of the upcoming ISL season were expected to be officially announced after a meeting on August 7. However, the meet was postponed till August 10 due to ‘technical reasons’.
Former East Bengal coach Subhash Bhowmick told Xtratime they delay in the meeting “FSDL is waiting for East Bengal.”
“Those who run FSDL are not foolish. They know how much viewership East Bengal can bring and how FSDL/ Star Sports would benefit from TV TRP if East Bengal joins ISL,” he said.
There have also been reports of the East Bengal club management formally sending the final jersey designs to FSDL, but officials haven’t confirmed this.
East Bengal got back their sporting rights in football-related affairs from their former investors Quess Corp following protracted negotiations and have since talked of participating in the ISL. However, it’s not clear if they will get things together in time.
The FSDL has said that looking at starting the season — a curtailed four-month competition due to COVID-19 pandemic — from the third week of November.