Hundreds of East Bengal supporters representing scores of fan clubs took to the streets flouting COVID-19 protocols to protest against the legacy officials of the 100-year-old club after they refused to get into a final agreement with the investor.
The protest march later took a violent turn as another group of supporters favouring the incumbent administration clashed with the opposing group forcing police to resort to lathi-charge and disperse the warring factions. The police rounded up 50 people from the scene of the clash which also left five supporters injured.
Around 1000 supporters sporting banners of several East Bengal fan clubs displayed banners and shouted slogans urging the club officials to sign the final agreement.
The legacy officials of East Bengal had signed the term-sheet with cement behemoth Shree Cement in September 2020, which secured the funds for the club to play in the Indian Super League. The deal happened with the intervention of the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.
After playing its first season of ISL, East Bengal club officials had a change of heart and refused to sign the final or the binding agreement citing discrepancies with the initial term-sheet. Following this episode, Shree Cement announced that it will not spend a penny extra if they do not sign the final agreement.
The protesting supporters, who held demonstrations for around two hours on the Leslie Claudius Sarani (the street leading to East Bengal Club), asked the incumbent officials to sign the agreement and urged the Chief Minister to step in once again to resolve the impasse.
With the team building process yet to take off, the protesting supporters voiced the growing apprehension about the team dropping out of this season’s ISL and other tournaments.
“The sporting rights of the club is with the investor (read SC East Bengal Foundation) and they can easily form the team for the season. We can sort out the differences by discussing the issue at a later date,” said East Bengal executive committee member and the club’s most influential name, Debabrata Sarkar, after the incident.
Former East Bengal players like Prashanta Banerjee and Debjit Ghosh feel that an intervention from the Chief Minister is necessary to solve the issue.