EAST BENGAL HAVE POTENTIALLY signed the biggest financial deal in Indian club football history. We say 'potentially' because the full extent of the deal will only come into play when East Bengal join the Indian Super League.
Yesterday, at a posh hotel in Kolkata, East Bengal officials unveiled their new partnership agreement with Bangalore-based global conglomerate Quess Corp. The firm known mostly for its investment and development work in various sectors and places around the planet is taking up 70% stakes in East Bengal's football team (To be operated under the arm of Quess East Bengal Private Limited, which is different from the rest of the East Bengal Club which includes a cricket teams and athletes in various disciplines.)
Quess Corp will also receive 4 out of 8 seats in the executive board that will oversee the operations of the football team; the rest going to East Bengal officials. But it will be the East Bengal officials who will retain the rights to make final decisions about the team, despite Quess Corp being the majority shareholders.
Now, the money they will spend for this seismic shift of a deal is relative to where East Bengal play. If they play in I-League, they'll get Rs 10 crore per year. If they move to ISL, the amount is expected to go up to Rs 40-45 crore. This massive difference in the amount represents, somewhat aptly, the night-and-day contrast betwen the promotion and visibility a club receives in I-League and ISL.
It's obvious that the deal is geared towards East Bengal making a move to the ISL. The club officials now have a financial motivation to make the move and Quess Corp see a huge potential in the possibility of profiting through the various sponsorships and merchandise sales East Bengal can attract when they are being backed up by the IMG-Reliance marketing machinery that ISL franchises get.
There's a chance East Bengal may make the jump from I-League to ISL this year itself; the club officials have shown some interest already. But with the start of ISL 2018-19 merely two months away and most of the prominent Indian players already under contract, it will be tough for East Bengal to make a competitive team for the upcoming ISL season.
Then there's also the question of the Kolkata Derby, which is the biggest selling point for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan as brands, and East Bengal will rightly think twice before joining ISL without Mohun Bagan following suit.
Either way, East Bengal seem to have found the magical middle ground both the Kolkata clubs have been looking for ever since they started considering a move to the ISL: securing high investment while retaining a reasonable amount of control over the club's management.
Rumours are abound that a similar deal is being negotiated between Mohun Bagan and a consortium and if both of them have their papers ready in time the two clubs may make the jump to ISL in the 2018-19 season itself. But with Mohun Bagan being mired in infighting, it's unclear whether their management will be able to accomplish this before the club holds its general election.
With time being of essence, supporters of both clubs are eagerly awaiting this long overdue move from the club management.