IT APPEARS to be an unfortunate turn of event that sporting clubs, purported to have largely passed their heydays with the shift in the national focus from football and hockey to cricket, are coming to be found involved, directly or indirectly, in gambling. The Rapid Action Battalion has already raided Fakirerpool Young Men’s Club and Dhaka Wanderers and busted casinos that they ran there. The police raid has caused fears among Mohammedan Sporting Club, Victoria Sporting Club, Arambagh Krira Sangha and Dilkusha Sporting Club, prompting them to stop running casinos on the club premises. Eleven sporting clubs moved to the club area of Motijheel in Dhaka, spanning from the Culvert Road to Gazi Golam Dastagir Road, in 1988 on land leased out to them by the National Sports Council, so that they can properly run their sporting activities. Seven of the clubs field teams in football and seven of them in hockey; only four of them have cricket teams. But six of them are reported to have been running casinos or have rented the club premises for casinos. They have largely moved away, mostly on the pretext of raising money to run the clubs, from their traditional role in sporting to gambling, which does not classify as a sport.
Most of them eventually started running casinos or allowing casinos to run on the club premises. Of the clubs, only Mohammedans now participate in the Dhaka Premier League cricket and Mohammadans and Arambagh play in the Bangladesh Premier League football. Fakirerpool Young Men’s Cub, which was the first to be raided among the two so far dealt with, was allowed to play in the Bangladesh Premier League football after it had emerged champions in the Bangladesh Championship League in 2016, but it stayed off citing fund constraints. Seven of the clubs still take part in the Premier Division hockey but none but Dhaka Mariners and Mohammedans spend any significant amount of money on sporting activities. Victoria, which is alleged to be the first to allow a casino on its premises when it was losing its sporting glory, was champions in the Dhaka Premier League cricket but it was relegated to the First Division League in 2016–17 when it failed to pay the players. Club organisers put the blame for running casinos or allowing casinos to run down to pressure from a section of politicians. It could very well be the case that the clubs have run the business of gambling with the connivance of some political leaders as it helps both the parties financially. Both the clubs and some political leaders are, therefore, to blame for the situation at hand. But what remains worrisome is that the clubs, along with political leaders, have run gambling for, at least, quite some years now and the police must have been in the know about it all. They may not have lifted a finger to stop the business of gambling or casino for reasons that may hardly need any explanation.
In the drive that the police appear to have begun, it is imperative that anyone responsible for the state of affairs at hand, from among club organisers, political leaders and the police personnel, should be held to account. This is not all about just keeping the law, ensuring revenue that the government could receive and stopping crimes from spreading further, it is also about ensuring a healthy sporting environment in the country.
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