JNI Stadium: Fans pay price for Blasters’ apathy

Damaged and partially missing seats present a serious hazard | Over 1,000 chairs in dilapidated state, says report
Damaged seats at the JNI Stadium 
Damaged seats at the JNI Stadium 

KOCHI: Fans must exercise caution when making their way to the Jawaharlal Nehru International (JNI) Stadium to watch Indian Super League (ISL) games, because doing so could land them in hospital. Certainly, the stadium’s damaged and partially missing seats present a serious hazard to spectators.

The Kerala Blasters supporters believe that the team hasn’t made any repairs after a significant number of seats were broken following the first few games. Though the Blasters management had agreed to have the chairs replaced after each game, it hasn’t carried out its end of the bargain.

Damaged seats at the JNI Stadium 
Damaged seats at the JNI Stadium 

According to organisers, over 20,000 fans visit the stadium for every match. 

“We reserve seats to watch games after paying a high price for tickets. But the facilities the club provides for its fans are pathetic. We were forced to sit on broken chairs in the last match. What will happen if anyone accidentally falls from the damaged chairs? It is clear injustice on the part of the club,” says Krishnajith, a Blasters fan from Thrissur.

A report received by the engineering wing of the GCDA, which owns the stadium, says over 1,000 chairs are in a dilapidated state and cannot be used at any cost. 

“Not just the chairs, but the road leading to the stadium is in a bad condition. If there is rain, we cannot enter the stadium with ease. We will have to walk through the slushy road to reach the stadium. Is this the way to organise a huge football event like this?” asks Reshmi Rajan, a civil engineer and  Blasters fan.

Ahead of the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, the official seating capacity of the stadium was fixed at 39,000 after the venue was made an all-seater arena ahead of the World Cup. The government had spent nearly Rs 25 crore for its renovation, which included installing bucket chairs, besides improving other facilities. 

“As per our agreement with the club, the damaged chairs have to be replaced before the next match. We will investigate any violations by the club. The club has full responsibility to replace the damaged chairs. We will hold a discussion with the club and will give directions to replace the damaged chairs immediately,” a GCDA official said. However, a Blasters official, in a statement, said the repair works on chairs are carried out at regular intervals. 

“Kerala Blasters is protecting the stadium in the best possible way. The club also carries out necessary maintenance before and after the season. As part of this, 2400 chairs were replaced ahead of the season, with the remaining 750 and 300 chairs replaced in two phases as the season progressed. It is often difficult to estimate damage as a season progresses. There are chairs that have been damaged due to age, including those originally installed by GCDA. GCDA usually issues a liability report after the end of a season. The GCDA has informed us that the liability report will be given on March 4. The repair work will be carried out based on that,” an official statement from the club said.

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