AFI slams ISL for encroachment of venues and training facilities

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday not only slammed the ISL for encroaching on its venues but also claimed that athletes were “struggling for existence” in the face of lack of space and facilities across the country, all taken over by the ISL.

Anju Bobby George believes the athletes are a neglected lot because of the ISL.   -  M. Moorthy

The jury might be out on the impact and importance of the Indian Super League (ISL) on Indian football but the tournament certainly has no fans among the athletics fraternity in the country.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday not only slammed the ISL for encroaching on its venues but also claimed that athletes were “struggling for existence” in the face of lack of space and facilities across the country, all taken over by the ISL.

READ:  Football or Athletics? Kanteerava Stadium caught in a crossfire

“Football is taking over all our athletics stadiums – in Delhi, Kochi, Bangalore and elsewhere – and athletes are struggling to even find space to train. Athletes are struggling even for their existence and fighting everywhere. Where will we go if ISL takes over everything?”  Anju Bobby George, long jumper and former chairperson of the government's Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), alleged on the sidelines of announcing the 22nd Federation Cup here.

 

“There is no space for training or competitions. We are struggling at all venues, only Patiala is available for us. ISL has taken over all stadia across the country as bulk booking for 6-7 months. There can be no throwing or field events because we are not allowed. Venues like Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Kolkata all traditionally host so many events across the year but now nothing is possible. " - C.K. Valson

AFI secretary C.K. Valson, in fact, said the federation had been forced to move the event to Patiala for the second year in succession because of the unavailability of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi due to ISL.

“There is no space for training or competitions. We are struggling at all venues, only Patiala is available for us. ISL has taken over all stadia across the country as bulk booking for 6-7 months. There can be no throwing or field events because we are not allowed. Venues like Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Kolkata all traditionally host so many events across the year but now nothing is possible,” he added.

 

Asked whether the federation had discussed the issue with the Sports Ministry, Valson asserted that the only reason the Khelo India games were held on the main Nehru stadium grounds was because the AFI had threatened to pull out of the event.

“The only event for which we got the venue was Khelo India, because it was a government thing. Even there, initially we were asked to host our events in the warm-up area but relented when we threatened. But there is no co-operation from the authorities (ministry and SAI). If there had been support then one sport or competition would not have monopoly over all venues,” he said, squarely blaming the government for the predicament.

In December last year, a group of athletes had even approached the Karnataka High Court questioning the use of the Kanteerava Stadium for football.

Anju alleged there had been plans to create a football field within the track at SAI's Bengaluru centre as well but were junked after she protested against the same.

Participation in Fed Cup mandatory

Meanwhile the Federation Cup, to be held from March 5-8, is likely to see some of the top Indian names in action after Valson declared that participation was must to be considered for India selection. “Anyone who seeks selection for major events including the CWG must participate in the Federation Cup even if they have already achieved qualifying mark. The selection committee may not consider them if they do not participate. We also have to see them and assess them before finalising the squad,” he said.

 

And Valson was blunt in his opinion: “In Chennai during the last national championships the cage for hammer throw broke in the warm-up area. It's a question the government has to answer — do they want to promote a sport for commercial success or make efforts to help produce world champions?"

While the Sports Authority of India has often insisted that the ISL was paying for the usage and that helped in the upkeep of the venue, questions were raised on whether it was being subjective about allowing events at the venues given the fact that Salman Khan's concert was allowed to go ahead on December 10 even at the cost of massive damage to the grounds and the track.

Ironically, the ISL organisers had raised concerns about turf damage back then. The shoe is clearly on the other foot now.