One thing these raids have done is bringing the financial frailty of these once popular clubs to the surface
As law enforcement agencies continue to bust sports clubs in Bangladesh for illegal gambling, one must question the local sports club culture as a whole.
During the raids, the financial frailty of these once popular clubs surfaced for all to see. Dhaka's sporting clubs were popular as recreational centres throughout the 1960s and '70s.
After work, people would gather in these clubs to sip a cup of coffee or tea, and chat for hours.
Government officials, businessmen, sports enthusiasts and journalists would visit these "socialising" centres regularly and engage in informal card or chess games.
Occasionally, special housie (bingo) nights would be arranged for the members.
Reminiscing about the old days, former national footballer Imtiaz Sultan Jonny said: "Back when we used to play in the clubs, housie would be occasionally arranged on the club premises. Senior government officials would sometimes play cards for recreation. But that was about it.
"What we are witnessing now is rather unfortunate. Casinos and gambling have nothing to do with sports. It cannot be a part of sports clubs."
The scenario began to change during the '80s.
Card games became more regular and intense. Slowly, but steadily, the clubs delved into these ventures while sporting activities stayed out.
In 1988, the National Sports Council allotted space for sporting activities to 11 clubs in and around Motijheel. During the '90s, most of these clubs shifted their sporting activities, including training and practice matches, to other venues.
Club premises were solely used for administrative purposes – or so people were told.
In reality, they were used to facilitate gambling and operate illegal casinos.
Clubs like Young Men's, Dhaka Wanderers and Victoria Sporting, apparently started the casino business – to deal with a lack of funds. One example of this was Young Men's Club's failure to register a squad for the premier league season of 2017.
The club earned promotion to the top tier but withdrew themselves from playing due to "a lack of funds."
Similarly, former Dhaka Premier Division cricket league champions, Victoria Sporting Club made headlines in the 2016-17 season when it failed to pay the salaries of its players.
Financial mismanagement compelled the clubs into securing funds through illegal means, claimed Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan, director-in-charge of Mohammedan Sporting Club.
"No sports club has its own income source, which is why many of them capitalised on this opportunity, thus shaping the gambling culture. However, many local politicians also compelled the clubs to get involved in such illicit activities," Lokman explained, adding that now they wanted this to end for good.
However, not everyone agrees with him.
Legendary national footballer and former head coach Golam Sarwar Tipu dismisses this claim. To him, the money generated from illegal activities does not help a club.
"It only helps a few administrators and corrupt officials. Clubs like Mohammedan that are allegedly involved in illegal activities have not won anything in 14 years or so. If they had spent the money garnered from illegal activities to finance club activities, as they are claiming, they would not have been assembling squads with average players just to avoid relegation," he said.
"Then, where did all the money go? I think these are all lame excuses to justify their crime," he added.
Most of the clubs that got busted have performed poorly in recent competitions.
Dilkusha Sporting Club, Victoria Sporting Club, Arambagh Krira Sangha, and Dhaka Wanderers Club have not won any top prizes in any of the three major sports – football, cricket and hockey – in over a decade.
On the other hand, giants of yesteryear, Mohammedan, won the hockey league in 2018, but has been struggling in the top tiers of football and cricket.
Former footballer Jonny opined that incompetence of managing officials is negatively affecting the clubs.
"The money garnered from these illegal activities only fills the pockets of corrupt officials, who I think are the real culprits.
"Every club has a selected committee for managing donations and funds. It is their responsibility to properly finance the clubs," he said.
Once the raids eventually stop, the clubs will need to rethink their strategies.
Those who are financially struggling can adopt a more professional approach towards managing their funds.
"I think the Bangladesh Football Federation should provide proper guidelines and counsel to the clubs in terms of managing their teams and funds," said Jonny.
He added that the federation can help promote the clubs. "Clubs themselves can also try digging out of financial difficulties by joining hands with a corporate body. Their marketing policies can be revised.
"The overall approach should be more professional," Jonny said.