East Bengal goes crowdfunding: An emotional appeal or a sign of ‘desperate times’ or a taint in legacy?


Founded in 1920, East Bengal Football Club is among the most iconic and successful in Indian football history. But of late, with financial difficulties cropping up, the club has been struggling in specific departments. Poor results on the field coupled with financial distress is a recipe for disaster.

Keeping this in mind and vying for better results, East Bengal officials led by Debabrata Sarkar a.k.a Nitu da, an executive committee member of the club made a public appeal for crowdfunding to reach a target of Rs 6 crores within one year.

In recent years, crowdfunding has become a method where clubs use it to raise money for various purposes. But in Indian football, this comes as a first.

eb ad The East Bengal football club ad for crowd funding.

Two days ago, in an advertorial in a local daily, the club shared its bank account number and a QR code and called for fans to come out and donate any amount as they please and share the details on a WhatsApp number.

Trying to strike the emotional chord, the club officials have been going to North Bengal, Tripura, Assam and even Bangladesh to collect funds. “We (as in those who migrated from Bangladesh) came begging and we are once again begging to fans to come forward and shower their love. The amount that we collect can be invested in developing our facilities and invest in grassroots development. If there is any surplus amount that can be utilised in even signing players. This can also help in bettering the performance of the club,” Sarkar told The Indian Express.

“East Bengal has millions of fans. Many of them have often told us – ‘that use us to your strength and take help from us’. Those in the working committee have committed to pay Rs 5 lakhs. So we are expecting to raise more than a crore from them. Apart from this fans can pay us anything from Rs 100 to Rs 1000. In return we will give them a certificate and keep an account of every money paid to us,” he added.

“We have a good rapport with our neighbouring country, especially the Abahani. We have a lot of fans in Bangladesh, and we have been told that a lot of them are more than happy to help,” said an official who did not want to be named.

east bengal bhutia Bhaichung Bhutia has expressed surprise at the move.

However, former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, who scored his first hat-trick against Mohun Bagan while playing for East Bengal in 1997, expressed surprise at the move. “Yes, the club needs funds, but it is very confusing. Right now, East Bengal has an investor and crowdfunding for me is difficult to understand,” Bhutia told The Indian Express.

Mehtab Hossain, who played 10 seasons for East Bengal, believes that the club needs to survive right now. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. The goal is for the club to somehow wade out of this situation. As a former player, I shall definitely stand by the club and contribute in whatever way I can,” said Hossain while talking to The Indian Express.

“Every little bit helps. So please, do what you can to support East Bengal Football Club. Together, we can save this iconic club and ensure its legacy continues for many years,” Hossain added.

east bengal football East Bengal and Mohun Bagan match in progress during the Calcutta Football Leauge at Yuva Bharati Kringan, Salt lake, Kolkata on Sunday. Express photo by Partha Paul.

“Committee has taken a decision depending on the current financial position. But it seems like they need money now because they never had a proper fund. One must also keep an eye on how these funds are utilized. Maybe then we can decide whether this was a good move or a bad one,” said another former East Bengal player Surya Bikash Chakraborty.

Fans, though, aren’t impressed. There has been a lot of criticism online. “It is quite sad that a club which boasts of millions of supporters, is finding it difficult to collect even Rs 6 crores,” said Dibyendranath Banerjea, a die hard fan of East Bengal. Another, Debkumar Sarkar, opined that crowdfunding could also lead to misuse of funds. “One thing they can do is go public with company shares and also release their financial reports every year in a transparent manner,” he said.

“We are against this because there is limited transparency in this process. How the club officials will utilize it is also a grey area. Also, if there is an audit, it has to be done by an independent organization. We had donated before but have yet to get a proper answer as to how the amount was utilized. So we demand complete transparency,” said a member of East Bengal Ultras, one of the largest fan groups.

The East Bengal ultras fan page also issued a strongly worded statement and said, “What have these officials done so far for the people in North Bengal that they have now come to beg? They could have had tie ups with local clubs in the region but they did not. We do not trust these officials. We want total transparency in the process and they can also start membership. If they charge Rs 5000 for an online membership all they will need is 12000 members to reach the target of Rs6 Cr. This will make it transparent or else we will boycott this move. We also have another query – this can work for a year but what about next year ? Will they come begging again? Is it possible to do this year after year?”, they asked.


But it’s not all dark and gloomy for the club. East Bengal have been signing players and they recently bolstered their attacking lineup by roping in the Spanish duo of Javier Siverio and Saul Crespo. So, all in all, it is not such a bad situation as yet but a long window remains in the horizon.
East Bengal History BOX: “Shree Suresh Chandra Chowdhury collaborated with the well-known soccer player Shailesh Bose and Dr. Ramesh Chandra (Nasa) Sen, who were restricted from being a part of the Jorabagan Club as they were “Baangaals”. To thwart these rules preventing the players of the Jorabagan team to play the beautiful game, they together incepted the East Bengal Club on 1st August 1920” – is the first thing that one can read in the archive section of East Bengal football club.


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