Famed Kolkata outfit Mohammedan Sporting having to shut shop this season due to lack of sponsors is just the tip of the iceberg. Giants like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are struggling too
Kolkata: Lack of sponsors in football in the days of the multi-million dollar Indian Super League (ISL) is hard to believe. But that's exactly what's happening in Kolkata — the Mecca of Indian football.
Mohammedan Sporting players during the 2013 Durand Cup. Pic/Getty Images
A club with a century-plus history, Mohammedan Sporting, yesterday decided to stop all football activities for the remainder of the season since due to lack of funds. And the situation, with giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is not promising either.
A top East Bengal club official, Debabrata Sarkar remains behind bars for his alleged alliance in the Sarada chit fund scam. East bengal's arch-rivals Mohun Bagan aren't even practising at the moment, although the I-league, India's premier domestic football tournament, is just a couple of months away.
So what is ailing top-level football in Kolkata? If a brand new team like ISL outfit Atletico de Kolkata can rope in sponsors at will, why can't Mohammedan Sporting, especially considering their rich heritage — Sporting is the first Indian club to win the Kolkata league for five consecutive years, before India's independence.
Blame it on laidback officials' lack of vision, purpose and professionalism.
Subhash Bhowmick, the only Indian coach to have won the I-league with two different clubs — East Bengal and Churchill Brothers, said: "Officials of Kolkata clubs must learn how to market the game. They simply sit idle thinking that they have the blessings of their supporters. They should learn the art of marketing and promotion from Bollywood actors, who tour every nook and corner of the country to popularise their work and ensure their films earn hundreds of crores.
"These stars perhaps devote more time for promotion rather than acting! And we do nothing to cash-in on this invaluable base of supporters, who take all the trouble to come to the ground to watch out teams perform. A lack of foresight and planning are the root cause of our problems. Sponsors are not going to come to you on their own, like supporters. They have to be lured in."
Veteran striker Dipendu Biswas, still under contract with Mohd Sporting also pointed a finger at ineffective officials. "A lack of professionalism on the part of officials of Kolkata clubs is the main reason for our downfall. Only in Kolkata, do we get such passionate and loyal supporters, who love our clubs.
"Now, if you become a member of a club anywhere in Europe, you get souvenirs with the club's logo and other merchandise. But here, members get nothing. And nowhere in the world can a football club survive only on the money generated through membership. I was in Brazil to watch the recent FIFA World Cup and visited a few clubs there. I was amazed to see the extent of their merchandising skills. We can learn so much from them."
Sponsors unwilling to invest money in football, has been a common excuse Kolkata officials have been giving fans for long. Currently, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are earning money by releasing their players to ISL franchises. The success of the ISL has only gone on to expose the lame excuses offered by club.