East Bengal are set to participate in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21.
In an address on Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that East Bengal will play in the ISL from the upcoming season.
"The problem has now been solved. Now East Bengal will play in ISL," she said.
Though the indications were that The Red and Golds might have to wait another season before they could join the ISL, Mamata Banerjee has now categorically stated that East Bengal will be part of the top tier of Indian football.
This is after the Kolkata club addressed their financial situation and finalised an investor. The new investors are reportedly Kolkata-based cement giants Shree Cements and the ownership structure is expected to be similar to the deal between Mohun Bagan and ATK, where the latter holds 80 per cent stakes.
With their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan also set to debut in the ISL after a merger with ATK, it seems possible that both the giants will ply their trades in ISL. It also means the famed Kolkata derby will now become a marquee fixture in the ISL.
"Mohun Bagan had joined ISL after an arrangement but East Bengal were trying for a very long time to play the ISL amidst the pandemic and that will finally happen now," Mamata Banerjee added.
While Mamata Banerjee has publicly stated that East Bengal will play ISL, there are a few more developments that will need to be finalised before the Red and Golds' entry into ISL becomes official. Any new team entering the league has done so after following a Request for Proposal (RFP) process after the league organisers invite bids.
As such, there has been no confirmation on a new tender so far but given Mamata Banerjee's public claim, we can expect the ISL to float a tender inviting new teams.
But there are little doubts whatsoever over East Bengal's participation in the top division league as Reliance official Tarun Jhunjunwala commented," We would not have reached this stage without the blessing of Didi. It is a new beginning of East Bengal. We will try that East Bengal will play in ISL this year. There are some formalities which need to be completed. With East Bengal and Mohun Bagan together in ISL, this will be a new beginning of Indian football."
"We will now appeal to ISL. There were some minor problems after our meeting which was held yesterday. Didi has helped us to find all solutions," senior East Bengal official Debabrata Sarkar said during the event on Wednesday.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the seventh season of the league will be held in three venues in Goa, namely the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, and the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco.