Karnataka Gov’t: Sree Kanteerava Stadium cannot be the preserve of just one sport

The stadium can be used for athletics as well as football, clarifies M. S. Ramesh, Joint-Director, Department of Youth Empowerment & Sports.

A view of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Department of Youth Empowerment & Sports (DYES), Govt. Of Karnataka, made it clear on Thursday that the Sree Kanteerava Stadium cannot be the preserve of just one sport.

The Karnataka Athletics Association (KAA) has been up in arms over the use of the stadium by the JSW-owned ISL club Bengaluru FC and recently petitioned the Karnataka High Court to restrain footballing activities on the grounds that the stadium was built exclusively for track and field disciplines.

Even as the High Court, during its last hearing on July 4, observed that the manner of the initial agreement between JSW and DYES was contrary to guidelines and ordered an inquiry and directed DYES to submit a report by October 14, it accepted an undertaking by the State that a transparent process would be followed if the stadium had to be given on lease again.

“Those who play football can play football and those in athletics can do athletics,” said M. S. Ramesh, Joint-Director, DYES.

“The only condition is that it should be according to the rules and there should be no damage to the property. It doesn’t depend [on whether] it is JSW or somebody else [who is requesting].”

‘Right procedure’

BFC is set to play its first home game on October 21 but clubs are expected to finalise their venues at least a month in advance. Asked if a fresh agreement will soon be signed to grant the club permission to use the stadium, Ramesh said: “It has never been a decision to not give. We just have to follow the right procedure. The Athletics Association has registered a plea with us to not allow football and we have forwarded it to the government to take a decision. But it is tough to say a stadium can be exclusive for just one sport.”

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The KAA, on its part, said it would continue its protests even if the grant of the stadium lease is procedurally right. The KAA also trained its guns on the DYES for not sanctioning a new athletics track, leading to the shift in venue for the National Open Athletics Championships from Bengaluru to Ranchi.

Protest march planned

Vice-President and former athlete B. L. Bharathi alleged that the inside lane was damaged because of the display boards used during ISL matches. The KAA has announced a protest march on Friday morning to highlight the DYES’ indifference. “We want the stadium only for athletics,” A. Rajavelu, secretary, reiterated. “Our young athletes cannot afford to go to a different place and practise. We are appealing to the Chief Minister, his deputy C. N. Ashwath Narayan, who has been in the KAA in the past. If we are not heard, our protests will intensify.”

Ramesh, however, clarified that the new track will soon be in place. “The government has changed. We will need their approval. Once that comes, I will issue a work order in one week.”