K.C. Narayana Gowda, Karnataka’s minister of Youth Empowerment and Sports, announced on Thursday that the Sree Kanteerava Stadium will henceforth not be used for football.
At a programme held to showcase the newly laid running track at the Stadium, Gowda, in response to a question whether such refurbishments truly helped athletes when the Stadium was being rented out for football and other activities, said, “we have taken a decision not to allow football.”
The Stadium is owned by the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) which is under the Karnataka government.
It now puts the conduct of Indian Super League matches at the venue in doubt, for the Stadium has been Bengaluru FC’s home ground since 2014-15. ISL authorities have indicated that the competition will revert to the home-and-away format from the 2022-23 season after two editions in a bio-bubble.
BFC CEO Mandar Tamhane refused to comment as “he had no information on any of this.”
The use of the Stadium by JSW-owned BFC has long been a bone of contention, with track and field athletes led by the Karnataka Athletics Association (KAA) even petitioning the Karnataka High Court.
In 2019, an agreement to hold matches was signed at the nth hour after the court, relying on a government gazette notification from 2011, held that there could be no bar on renting out the stadium for sports activities.
A division bench, including the Chief Justice, had earlier accepted an undertaking by the State that a transparent process would be followed if the stadium had to be rented out. It was a position the DYES had held as well, but may undergo a change in the wake of Gowda’s pronouncement.
In the last week of December, the KAA had made a fresh appeal to the government to not allow football in 2022. When the government sought DYES’ opinion in January, the latter said a final decision had not been taken.
“This stadium is not a multi-purpose stadium and track and field athletes should be priority,” maintained A. Rajavelu, Hon. Secretary, KAA.
“With permission from DYES, JSW can use the stadium on match-day and one day before that. But on other days, we should have unrestricted access.”
He added,“In the past they [JSW] have created problems by not allowing us to step on the grass and such. This is not acceptable to us. Where will we practise our field events?"