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Revealed: The story behind East Bengal's I-League trasfer ban

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Khel Now has obtained a copy of the minutes of the AIFF hearing that found the Red and Gold guilty of illegally poaching a player.

East Bengal were dealt with a hefty transfer ban by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) earlier on Saturday for trying to illegally sign players from Minerva Punjab. The controversy surrounds the transfer of Sukhdev Singh, who was himself earlier banned for four months by the Federation for breaching his Minerva Punjab contract and agreeing to deals for his transfer with both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. As a result, the Red and Gold Brigade will be banned from signing or registering any new players for the I-League season till 31 January next year.

Minerva Punjab's owner Ranjit Bajaj had exclusively told Khel Now a few months ago about how they were aiming to take legal action against the Red and Gold for trying to illegally poach their players into signing for the Kolkata club. Bajaj apparently sought the intervention of the AIFF through an official email, dated 30th April 2018, when East Bengal first made contact with the players of Minerva, with Bajaj claiming that they had done so 'íllegally', in violation of FIFA and AIFF regulations. While East Bengal did manage to successfully sign the likes of Kamalpreet Singh, Rakshit Dagar and Kassim Aidara for hefty fees, they were stuck in a transfer war for Sukhdev, whose case was keenly followed by the AIFF.

In the official letter, Bajaj accused East Bengal official Alvito D'Cunha of contacting the said player without officially contacting the club or its officials, which is in hindsight a clear violation of Annexe III, clause 2 of the AIFF Players' Status regulations that states that a club seeking the signature of a professional must first communicate in writing to the player's parent club before entering into negotiations with him. Sukhdev's contract had more than six months left, and thus this is a clear violation of the AIFF Code of Conduct.



East Bengal have violated Annexe III, clause 2 of the AIFF Players' Status regulations

In August, AIFF had released a statement stating their enquiry on the case.

According to a copy of minutes of the hearing, which Khel Now has in possession, East Bengal produced relevant documents that showed that his agent, Nula Kohringam, approached East Bengal first regarding the transfer of the player, seeking a commission if the move were to see completion. The Agent, who works for Libero Sports Pvt. Ltd., however, stated that East Bengal deliberately chose to ignore the official process of negotiation with respect to the regulations.

D'Cunha, meanwhile, blamed the agent for keeping the club in the dark regarding the finer details of the player's contractual terms. D'Cunha also stated that East Bengal were never in direct contact with Sukhdev, but only communicated via the Libero agency (who had no official representative present for the hearing). The AIFF Committee, subsequently, rejected the argument, stating that 'ignorance of the law' cannot be brought as an excuse to justify any violation of legal proceedings and East Bengal, being such a glorious and historic club in Indian football cannot claim to be unaware of the relevant rules and regulations.    

Alvito D'Cunha said all contacts with Sukhdev Singh had been through the agent

The committee also rejected similar arguments by the player, who claimed 'ignorance of the law' on the grounds that the player is an adult and has played professional football for many years.

In an official statement released on Saturday, the federation has condemned East Bengal for violating several rules and trying to goad the player into breaching his contract with Minerva Punjab and signing with them instead. 


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Bajaj tweeted out the picture, where he revealed the hefty ban which could really derail East Bengal’s chances of properly challenging for the I-League title this season. Bajaj applauded the AIFF’s stance in taking this decision, but also branded East Bengal officials Debabrata Sarkar and Alvito D’Cunha as “idiots” for being the reason for their shocking transfer ban.

This jolt in the footballing journey could spell disaster for Alejandro Menendez and Co, with new signings Borja Perez and Enrique Esqueda yet to be registered for the new I-League season. Katsumi Yusa is also among those not registered by the Red and Gold, who will also not be able to sign any more domestic players or register them till 31 January.

While the new signings will be able to play following the opening of the January transfer window, that will happen after almost half the I-League season is over and the new signings will definitely not be as effective as they were intended to be.

As per the copy of the decision, the committee has also fined Sukhdev for violation of the provisions of Article 21 (1) of the Players' Status Regulations.  

AIFF's final verdict on the entire incident

East Bengal were expected to lodge an official appeal to the AIFF on Saturday evening against the ban. But, with the governing body's stance looking strong on this matter, there’s little chance that they will get the ban overturned and will have to stick to their current squad. The Kolkata club failed to impress in the Calcutta Football League and are set to field the same squad in the first half of the I-League season.

Published: Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:03 AM IST

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