The two sides had announced a high-profile association just over a year ago.
An unexpected piece of news emerged during East Bengal’s centenary year celebrations, that corporate investors Quess Corp are already on their way out of the club. Here’s what Ajit Isaac, Chairman and Managing Director of the club, said after a meeting recently, which confirmed the news to all the Red and Gold fans.
“When we invested in East Bengal Club, we had a three-year investment horizon there, so this is the second year. We already started talking to our other relevant stakeholders to monetize this asset. We have also been talking to a few possible investors. So, it will take some time. We are confident that by the end of this season, we will most probably not be there in that club.”
Does this push East Bengal a step back? Certainly. The technological and business service-provider had bought a 70% stake in the club, making it the controlling partner. Quess rechristened the club’s name to Quess East Bengal, a move that met mumbled rustling amongst the fans.
But eventually, they grew happy with the workflow and the new owners invested heavily in the club last season, bringing in fine foreign players under the able leadership of Alejandro Menendez. The Spaniard is richly experienced at 53, having worked with several top European and Asian clubs in his career.
Looking at the wider scheme of things, there have been just two prominently successful examples of clubs that have been financially viable for longer periods, or at least look to be on the right track. Jamshedpur FC, an out-growth of the renowned Tata Football Academy, and Bengaluru FC, managed by the JSW Group, have done tremendous work in this spectrum while ensuring a regular influx of funds in the functioning of a footballing mechanism.
Looking at the state of affairs, the chances of East Bengal now joining the ISL anytime soon look bleak. This may not have happened earlier, given AIFF’s tussle with some I-league clubs involving FIFA intervention, but the current scenario further weakens the Kolkata club, given the financial setback they might face, and clearly, with Quess reluctant to send in the moolah.
Rumour mills suggest that the working style of the club officials, a bracket of people that have been serving the club for sometime now, made life difficult for Quess Corp. The non-professional and traditional methods used by these officials is disrupting the professional and textbook-like functioning of the club. Khel Now cannot confirm the same, though.
Another aspect that will be affected by this will be the weakened tussle between AIFF and the I-league clubs. Churchill Brothers, Minerva Punjab and Quess East Bengal had been leading the fight against the parent body, but the financial dynamics have dramatically changed in just a couple of days. Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj has recently sold 50% of the club’s stake to RoundGlass Sports, and that may or may not hinder his free-flowing nonchalance and swift decision-making.
Churchill Brothers haven’t been in a strong position financially for some time now, and this jolt for East Bengal will make things a little more difficult for the association against the AIFF.
A lot of other things may change as well, but all of these can be read as signs for days to come. Corporates wouldn’t happily invest in clubs and this leaves a poor blot on Indian football.