East Bengal club will have an issue in building their team for the 2020-21 season if they are unable to negotiate a smooth exit plan from their ongoing joint venture with Quess Corp.
The Kolkata club had entered into a Joint Venture with the Bengaluru-based company in 2018 to run their footballing activities. Quess Corp, who came in as an investor, owns 70 per cent of the new entity Quess East Bengal FC while East Bengal club had the remaining 30 per cent.
It is important to note that the footballing rights to play in the I-League is with the joint venture.
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But since the beginning of the last season, Quess Corp chairman Ajit Isaac had suggested that the company will be ending their association with the club post May 31, 2020. Isaac mentioned that they would try to find a third party to divest their shares in order to recover the losses they had incurred.
In January this year, CEO Subrata Nag had confirmed the development by stating, "QEBFC, as we told, that the 31st of May this year is the last day, our contract with the club terminates. We have no financial liability post that. What we have been trying and that we also in the discussions with a couple of investment bankers to get a suitor so that we can divest. So we will be trying our best to do that.
"Hopefully, we'll get somebody to offload our share. And if nothing happens, but -- 31st May, post that, we have no financial liability. That is the last point."
However, in the current scenario, Quess can either exit the venture and transfer the footballing rights (to play in the I-League) entirely to East Bengal. Or an investor can come in and buy Quess' stakes off and the footballing rights on behalf of East Bengal. Or Quess can demand a compensation from East Bengal in case no investor crops up.
If all else fails, Quess have already indicated that they will hold no financial liability for the club's day-to-day affairs including payment of salaries and such. It has already been explained that the onus to find funds to pay players with existing contracts in such a case falls on the parent club that is East Bengal.
But what happens to the players the club are signing currently ahead of the 2020-21 season?
In case Quess decides to not to exit and hand over the footballing rights to the club, East Bengal officials, who have already started recruiting players for the upcoming season will be in a spot of bother.
The club has already confirmed the signing of seven players - Sehnaj Singh from ATK, Wahengbam Angousana Luwang and Loken Meitei from TRAU FC, Mohammad Rafique Ali Sardar from Jamshedpur FC, Gurtej Singh from Hyderabad FC, Novin Gurung from Real Kashmir, Lalram Chullova from Mohun Bagan and Balwant Singh from ATK.
They are also in advanced talks with players like Mohammed Irshad, Girik Khosla, SK. Sahil and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Goal understands.
But none of these players will be able to play for the club unless the footballing rights are back with the East Bengal club. If not, the club will be obligated to pay the newly contracted footballers but will not be able to avail their services.
The officials must now discuss and confirm a mutual exit strategy with Quess in order to get back the footballing rights or else the 100-year-old club might not be able to take part in any of the national competitions next season.