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Fund crunch looms for East Bengal as sponsor delays payment

East Bengal is negotiating to get annual amount of Rs.10 crore amid reports that main backers want to slash it by more than half. Will they go the way of Mohun Bagan, who too don’t have a sponsor?

football Updated: Aug 22, 2017 22:28 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
East Bengal,Mohun Bagan,I-League
East Bengal is one of the oldest football clubs of India.(AFP)

Yet to get a paisa this season from their main sponsors, East Bengal may be facing a financial uncertainty in the near future.

Usually, the budget for the season is approved in April-May and money start being transferred from July. This time even on Tuesday, East Bengal officials were negotiating for approximately Rs 10 crore that the club has been paid for over five terms.

Since 1998, East Bengal have a joint-venture company with a liquor giant which has offices in Bangalore and a popular beer brand as their principle sponsor.

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According to an official at the club, the sponsors have said they would drastically reduce the amount for 2017-18 stating they aren’t getting enough value for money. This was conveyed to the club around July, said the official requesting anonymity given the sensitive nature of the issue.

The official also claimed that a pitch was made to East Bengal’s sponsors by the Indian Super League (ISL).

“Our sponsors with whom we have a relationship of nearly 20 years were told that ISL would provide better visibility and following those discussions, they came to us saying the budget for this season would be reduced by more than half,” said the official.

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Speaking from Mumbai, a spokesperson for ISL though denied that East Bengal’s sponsors have been approached.

What could also go against East Bengal is their inability to access the approximately Rs 1.70 crore in accounts frozen by the Enforcement Directorate since 2014. That happened following allegations that it was paid by chit fund company Saradha Group which is facing charges of cheating and money laundering. Arch-rivals Mohun Bagan’s accounts too were frozen at the same time but the club convinced ED to free their funds.

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“We had a meeting today with the sponsors and will need time to sort things out. Discussions are on but nothing’s been finalised yet,” said Debabrata Sarkar, speaking to Hindustan Times over the phone from Bangalore on Tuesday. Sarkar is an executive committee member and a key figure in running the club that turns 100 in 2020 and is aiming for an unprecedented eight Kolkata league title.

Mohun Bagan, which is 128 years old, too are without a sponsor for almost three years. Would it mean two of India’s biggest and most successful football clubs will be cold shouldered by corporate India?

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 22:22 IST