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Mohun Bagan's failure to meet player's wages on time is a recurrent vice

04:19 IST 24/08/2018
Mohun Bagan team in practice
It is not for the first time that the century-old club has defaulted on making timely payments to the players...

In January 2013, fumes of discontent brew among the Mohun Bagan players as the club management had failed to credit the salaries for the past two months within the stipulated time. Club secretary Anjan Mitra had spoken to the players on that occasion and promised them that they would clear the outstanding amount by January 17.

In May 2015, when the Kolkata giant were knocking on the doors to lift their maiden I-League title the players along with the coaching staff were made to wait for their wages.

In 2018, the problem has once again reared its ugly head. To make matters worse, the club is amidst a full-blown administrative crisis where long-time pals Anjan Mitra and Swapan Sadhan Bose, alias Tutu Bose, have been clashing for the last few months. 

Mohun Bagan's 2017/18 season ended around April 20 with the conclusion of the inaugural edition of the Super Cup. But the club administration failed to meet three deadlines (March 15, April 15 and April 30) to make player's payments. The players were contracted till May 31 and the administrators promised that the pending dues, which nearly amounted to three month's salary, would be paid soon.

But the players got a breather when Bose donated INR 1 crore to clear the dues on “urgent basis”.  

The crisis reached its crescendo on Wednesday evening when the players refused to train until they were given assurance from the secretary about their payments. Usually, the practice sessions are held in the morning but the players requested coach Sankar Lal Chakraborty to postpone it till the evening so that they can voice their grievances to Mitra. 

In the meeting, the players were assured that all their dues will be cleared within a week's time. After getting such assurances from the supremo, club captain Shilton Paul said, "We held a meeting with the coach and voiced our problems. The coach has helped us in whatever ways he could. Then the players decided that we would hold talks with Mitra Sir. This has happened before and the club had cleared the dues previously. Let us wait and watch how this pans out."

Amidst this crisis mudslinging between the Anjan Mitra camp and Tutu Bose camp remains the only constant. Mitra has accused Tutu Bose, Srinjoy Bose and Debashish Dutta, the other three directors of the club, of non-cooperation and conspiracy.

"They are trying to put me in trouble. They are busy hatching dangerous conspiracies against us. First, they tried to disrupt the quorum and now they are politicising the issue of player's salary," said Mitra. 

Both Dutta and Bose have retaliated to the secretary's comments.

"Whenever he fails to carry out his duties, he chooses to shift the responsibility to the three other directors. Today when he is failing to make payments to the players he is blaming the three directors. He is hurting the interests of the club with his false claims," said Bose.

The former financial secretary Debashish Dutta has thrown an open challenge to the existing administrators that if the current executive committee is dissolved and the day-to-day operations of the club are handed over to the current directors, the club will once again function smoothly. 

"The secretary is saying all this to hide his failure. He said that it was our duty to meet the player's wages of the previous season and we have done that. Now if the company is allowed to take over the functions of the club then there will be no problems regarding player's payment. We will bring an overseas player as well," said Dutta emphatically.

Meanwhile, former head coach Sanjoy Sen has registered an official complaint with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that the club owes him four months salary amounting to Rs 18 Lakhs. 

Amidst the snow-balling of the wage issue, it is the junior players that get affected severely. Most of them hail from financially weak backgrounds and are dependent on their monthly salary not only to meet their daily expenses but also to support their family back home. A footballer is expected to concentrate on his performance on the pitch and it is the duty of the club to ensure that he is able to achieve his full potential on the field rather than worry about pending salaries. 

It must be pointed out that the revenue model of the club is highly impractical. They are completely dependent on sponsorship amount which is ridiculous for a club operating for more than a century at national and international platforms. Revenue sources like player transfer fees, merchandise sales are still alien to the club. With the kind of supporter base that Mohun Bagan boasts, shirt-sales and merchandise sales should have been a healthy source of revenue.

But since the club continues to function in the archaic era, it is yet to launch an official store even in Kolkata. The failure to do so must be shared by administrators both past and present. It is high time that the organisation takes a leaf out of their Indian Super League (ISL) counterparts and mend their ways to remain competitive in the national scenario.