Updated: August 26, 2021 5:58:45 pm
East Bengal will play in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021 as the deadlock between Shree Cement and the club finally ended after the mediation from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The announcement was made on Wednesday at Nabanna, West Bengal secretariat building, where the two parties came face-to-face in the presence of Banerjee.
“There was an air of uncertainty surrounding their future and even I became a bit hostile, but now the deadlock has been broken. Shree Cement will remain as investors and East Bengal will play ISL. Congratulations to all EB fans,” said Banerjee in a press conference on Monday.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, executive committee official Debabrata Sarkar, also known as ‘Nitu da’, said, “I kept saying East Bengal will play ISL but people did not take my word for it. We will be playing under last year’s agreement. Today is a victory for football. This is the magic of our CM and she has wielded her magic wand. On her directive, Tarun Jhunjunwala, and Biswa Majumder, both worked behind the scenes tirelessly which resulted in this outcome.”
When asked if East Bengal will be able to make a formidable side in such a short time, Sarkar said, “Ajit Bandopadhay has already drafted a team. If Shree Cement wants then we can definitely help them to build a formidable team. We are ready to provide all help.”
The red and yellow also released a statement later in the evening, after their executive committee meeting, which read–
Bhaichung expresses concern
The real challenge for the club will be to put out a team before the transfer window closes on August 31. Former England striker Robbie Fowler will remain at the helm as the head coach.
However, legendary Indian footballer and former national team and East Bengal captain Bhaichung Bhutia expressed concern and said, “I hope this saga gets resolved once and for all. Otherwise, it will not bode well for the club in the long run. You cannot have the same problem every year.”
“Signing players and forming a team in such a short period of time will be very very difficult. All good players have been taken up by other clubs. So it will not be an easy task,” Bhutia told the indianexpress.com.
However, refuting all concerns, Sarkar said that the red and gold brigade will be on the field with a strong team.
Meanwhile, Shree Cement representative SS Khandelwal said, ” We want to play. There were some differences so we could not sign the agreement. But since you (Mamata Banerjee) have requested, we have decided that we will participate in ISL.”
East Bengal-Shree Cement deal: A timeline of events
In June 2020, Quess Corp made an exit as the investor of East Bengal, and Shree Cement was brought on board as an investor. Thereafter, a joint venture — Shree Cement East Bengal Foundation was formed with 76 percent stakes for the new investors while the club had 24 percent.
A term sheet was also signed in September 2020 by both the parties and according to it, the club’s sporting rights as well all its assets and properties (including intellectual) were reportedly transferred to the newly formed joint venture.
However, the final binding agreement of the deal took a lot of meetings and negotiations. Shree Cement had already sent a revised version of the final agreement to the club as well as to the West Bengal Chief Minister on August 16. East Bengal club executive members had refused to sign the final agreement with Shree Cement, claiming a discrepancy in the initial term sheet.
Finally, on Wednesday, Shree Cement Limited agreed to extend its partnership with East Bengal.
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