It was only two years back that East Bengal had welcomed Bengaluru-based business service provider Quess Corp as their investors.
The club had entered into a joint venture (JV) with the company where Quess owned 70 per cent shares and had taken the responsibility to run the football team.
The move was considered a milestone in the history of the century old club and it was believed that with the arrival of new investors, the fortunes of the club would change.
The Quess era began with a lot of promise. From recruiting a high profile manager and foreign players to a pre-season training stint in Malaysia, East Bengal were in the news for all the right reasons.
The club, however, missed out on the I-League title by a whisker as they finished the season one point behind eventual champions Chennai City FC. But it was the closest they had come to the title in a long time.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon period ended soon and issues allegedly cropped up between the investors and the club officials immediately after the I-League.
One of the primary reasons why the club officials had brought in an investor and gave up their control in the club management was to participate in the Indian Super League (ISL). Quess too had stated after coming on board that their primary target was to play in the ISL.
After the conclusion of the I-League 2018-19 season, Quess chairman Ajit Isaac had held a couple of meetings with All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) officials to discuss the possibilities of joining the ISL.
But surprisingly within three days of the second meeting, Quess East Bengal FC decided to join the now-defunct consortium of five other clubs (Mohun Bagan, NEROCA, Aizawl, Gokulam Kerala, Minerva Punjab) who had joined forces at that time to collectively withdraw from the Super Cup 2019 as a mark of protest against the AIFF. The protest was because they wanted to meet AIFF President Praful Patel to discuss the future roadmap of Indian football but could not get a chance amid his busy schedule.
The unison of the I-League clubs were primarily lead by the two Kolkata giants and former I-League champions Minerva Punjab owned by Ranjit Bajaj.
The six clubs even wrote letters to FIFA, Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, imploring them to consider their case.
The decision of boycotting the Super Cup and get into a tussle with the Indian FA did not go down well with the club officials. Several senior officials who were also board members in QEBFC had openly criticised their investors.
In fact, Debabrata Sarkar had openly said he wanted to field a team in the Super Cup and had even put together a makeshift side using academy and junior players.
However, ultimately QEBFC decided to join hands with the other I-League clubs which also included their rivals, Mohun Bagan. This move meant that whatever progress they had made in terms of possibly getting into the ISL was negated.
This consortium jointly stated that there was no need to pay the franchise fee to enter the ISL and wanted promotion and relegation based on merit into the ISL. They also proposed an alternate plan involving a new league including I-League and ISL clubs, which was always doomed for failure.
Ajit Isaac and Quess, who had reportedly considered paying the franchise fee initially during their talks with ISL, reversed their stance completely as they stood firm with the other I-League clubs.
Patel did eventually meet with the clubs and assured them that the continental spot for I-League will not be taken away and that there will be improvement in broadcast quality.
It has to be noted that the two other entities who had spearheaded the unison are no longer part of the I-League after the 2019-20 season. While Mohun Bagan joined hands and entered into a merger with ATK to join the ISL, Ranjit Bajaj sold his entire stake in the Punjab club to RoundGlass Sports.
With Quess Corp gone now, East Bengal are without an investor at the moment and are still in the I-League which has become the second-tier competition since last season. Quess, who came in with the target of taking East Bengal to the ISL, ended up leaving without fulfilling their aim.
With senior officials at Mohun Bagan doing what is necessary to get the Mariners into the ISL and Ranjit Bajaj making a fruitful exit from Punjab FC, a desperate East Bengal have been left in the lurch.