KOCHI: For the last three years, Gokulam Kerala FC have been playing their home matches at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kerala. Branding themselves as the Malabarians, the I-League outfit identified the venue as their home turf. According to club officials, they invested in its renovation to make it look like what it is today. However, they are confronted with a scenario where another club also wants to set up base there.
On Wednesday, a few Kerala Blasters officials met the Kozhikode Muncipal Corporation mayor to discuss plans of renovating the stadium and hosting their Indian Super League matches at the venue. Club officials are expected to meet the mayor again next week.
"There was a meeting about ground facilities and renovations required. They expressed interest in hosting matches here because 60-70% of their fans are from this region. They will submit a report of the work and their plan next week," said Kozhikode Corporation Secretary Binu Francis.
Kerala Blasters have been using Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi as home ground since the start of ISL in 2014. Last season, after differences with the Greater Cochin Development Authority which owns the stadium, they threatened to move out of Kochi. They held meetings with sports minister EP Jayarajan, as talks surfaced about them wanting to use the Kozhikode stadium. The club is tight-lipped but admits there are plans to broaden its fan base.
"We started discussions and there is no concrete plan right now. We could probably have practice matches or friendly matches. We haven't thought of completely shifting out of Kochi. We are just exploring options," said a Kerala Blasters official.
For Gokulam, the issue is not sharing the stadium but a lack of communication. "We feel they (Blasters) should have approached us also, because they know it has been our home ground for three years. When the AIFF came for inspection in the first year, they found it unplayable and said that we hold matches there only if their conditions were met. There was so much of maintenance work which we did at our cost. We wouldn't have invested if one day we were told to leave. They should know it is not ethically or professionally right to approach through the back door because we are also playing in a similar league," Gokulam president VC Praveen said.
There are instances of two clubs sharing a stadium. ISL side FC Goa and I-League outfit shared Margao's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium last season. Gokulam have been taking the stadium on lease on a yearly basis and they are hoping to get an extension.
"We had asked the authorities for a long-term lease but they said it won't be possible. Unless we don't spoil the ground or cause any damage, they will give us the ground every year and they've been doing that for the past three years. This year also we approached them for renewal two weeks back and they have been positive about it," said Praveen.