Two groups of East Bengal supporters clashed near the club tent at the Maidan on Wednesday, in the wake of the Indian Super League side's impasse with investors Shree Cement Ltd.
According to police sources, five were injured and taken to the hospital, while around 50 were arrested after the incident in front of Eden Gardens.
Trouble started brewing in the afternoon when supporters under the banner of 'East Bengal Real Power' and other fan clubs started gathering for a pre-planned protest against the authorities. With placards in their hands, the supporters also demanded intervention from chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Another group, purportedly of the club management, soon retaliated with slogans as the situation snowballed into violence and police had to resort to lathi-charge. There have been clashes between the arch-rival clubs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the past, but this is the first time supporters of the same club fought against each other in unruly scenes at the Maidan.
"This is really unfortunate. I've never seen such a scene in my life," former India midfielder and East Bengal icon Mehtab Hossain said. Urging the club management and investor SCL to sort out the matter amicably, he said: "I feel many problems will be solved if the club officials and investors sit together and discuss the differences." There has been furore all over since the club officials, led by president Dr Pranab Dasgupta and 24 executive members, issued a signed statement not to sign the 'final binding agreement' with SCL.
General secretary Kalyan Majumdar, in a statement, had said that the agreement does not protect the rights of the existing club members. "We will not sign the agreement where the members will lose their fundamental rights, where the club will be permanently handed over and we will lose the right over ground, logo, tent." The Hari Mohan Bangur-led group had already refused to "spend a penny" to build the side for the upcoming ISL season unless they get the sporting rights for which they needed the final term sheet signed by the club management.
Following the exit of former investor Quess Corp last year, East Bengal made a last minute foray into the ISL after SCL came on board following the intervention of state chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Having acquired a stake of 76 per cent, the cement giants signed an initial term sheet with the club in September last year. But a final binding agreement of the deal has not been signed by the club management who are claiming that there are "differences" from the initial term sheet. The SCL, on the other hand, maintained that there has been no changes to the initial terms in the binding agreement and the club has so far failed to prove their point, leading to the logjam.
In this scenario, the team is yet to sign players for the upcoming ISL season.