THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The `161 crore Greenfield International Stadium at Kariavattom is by far the best sports arena in Kerala and arguably one of the finest in the whole country. Yet, matters have come to a head between its operator IL&FS and Kerala Football Association (KFA) leading to the state losing out on its bid to host 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match that was to be played on November 12.
KFA came out the other day saying that the operator IL&FS has quoted an insane amount of `34,30,000 as daily rent in order to use the stadium for the match and this will inflict a huge financial strain on the association. They pointed out that even the best stadiums in the country like Kolkata’s Yuva Bharati Krirangan, the largest stadium in India by capacity, charges under `10 lakh as rent while the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi can be had for rent at `5 lakh.
Meanwhile, IL&FS sprung into defence claiming that the amount is only an estimate and includes charges levied for security, housekeeping, additional power, etc that were optional. The state government also promised to look into the matter and ensure that prestigious tournaments are held in the state.
However, with All India Football Federation (AIFF) which had allotted the match to Kerala, considering to shift the venue to Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru it looks like it will be the sports enthusiasts in Kerala who will be the real losers once again missing out on quality sporting action.
In this context, ‘City Express’ spoke to politicians, custodians of the game and its fans to have their opinion on the stand-off.
At a time when football culture is beginning to develop in the city, this incident can very well take the rhythm out of the growing interest in the sport. Public-private partnerships must always be for the benefit of the taxpayers and in this case, it must be for the sports lovers in the capital. Me and the children at Kovalam FC are definitely disappointed and will protest against this
Ebin Rose, coach of Kovalam Football Club and former footballer
As the operators of the stadium, IL&FS have the right to demand a rent for the facility. But the amount that has been reported is way too much to ask from a football body anywhere in India. As a football administrator, I am very disappointed that we might be losing out on a prestigious fixture like the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. This would have been the first time such a high profile football match to be hosted by Thiruvananthapuram. We now fear for the SAFF Championship 2015 which is to be held later in the year at the same venue.
S Geevarghese, secretary of the Thiruvananthapuram District Football Association
The objective of IL&FS is to host as many matches as possible at Greenfield Stadium which includes World Cup qualifiers and SAFF Championship. We had submitted an estimate to KFA showing a rent of around `10 lakh and rest of the money for additional facilities which are optional. We had done the same with Kerala Blasters and held discussions with them to zero in on an appropriate amount at which they have been using our facilities for a month now. KFA should also have done the same instead of going public with a data that is not even the final quote.
Anilkumar Pandala, director of Kariavattom Sports Facilities Limited - IL&FS
The state government was unaware of the rent quoted to KFA since it is IL&FS who are to operate the stadium for the first 15 years under the agreement. But the Ministry will do everything to make sure that prestigious events like FIFA World Cup qualifying match and SAFF Championship are held in Kerala
Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Minister for Sports, Government of Kerala
IL&FS is a private company and their aim is to make a profit from the stadium in the 15 years they are allowed to run it. Moreover, the stadium offers the best facilities anywhere in the country. As far as I know, only University of Kerala is allowed any concession to conduct their sports meets in the stadium.
M A Vahid, Kazhakootam MLA
It will be disappointing if Thiruvananthapuram is to lose such a high quality match like India’s World Cup qualifier. I doubt if the authorities would have done the same if it was a cricket match. I request the officials to not to strangle the spirit of football. Let us keep our spirits high and hope we can catch some exciting action on the ground very soon.
Jasim Jaleel, house surgeon at Government Medical College and football enthusiast