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An unending ruckus: Why AIFF should do everything to prevent Bengaluru FC from shifting to Pune

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has never been known for quick resolution of conflicts but this time, they might have taken things too far.

An unending ruckus: Why AIFF should do everything to prevent Bengaluru FC from shifting to Pune

Abhranil Roy

Published: 21 Sep 2019 6:46 AM GMT

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has never been known for quick resolution of conflicts but this time, they might have taken things too far. Bengaluru FC, one of India’s finest football clubs in recent years has reportedly enlisted the Balewadi Stadium in Pune as their home ground for the next season.

The move, which came after an ongoing legal battle regarding the use of the famous Kanteerava Stadium, could mean that the club would not be able to use their “fortress” henceforth.

On a statement released on social media a few days back, Bengaluru FC said, "In a bid to adhere to the AIFF Club Licensing deadline, Bengaluru FC has enlisted the Balewadi Stadium, in Pune as the venue for its home games for the coming season.

"However, the club is working closely with all stakeholders involved to find an amicable solution, and ensure that Bengaluru FC plays its home games out of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The city has been our Fortress, its people our strength and its glory, our endeavour. We hope to keep all of them intact.”


This announcement saw a swell of online support from the Indian football community for Bengaluru FC. The West Block Blues, Bengaluru’s official supporters’ club were at the forefront of the protest which saw club rivalries being erased as East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters and FC Goa fans all unite to demand justice for the club. Even sports celebrities like Mahesh Bhupathi chimed in, asking the State Government to solve the matter at the earliest.

Why did Bengaluru FC decide to shift now?

It was not a decision that was taken hastily. Since 11th March 2019, reports of athletes from the Karnataka Athletes Association (KAA) protesting against BFC’s use of the stadium had been making rounds. The issue was simple, the athletes felt that Bengaluru FC marginalized them and did not let them use the common facilities to the extent they should have been.

Speaking to the Scroll recently, Arjuna awardee and former Indian sprinter Ashwini Nachappa said, "They [Bengaluru FC] have treated athletes [at Kanteerava stadium] like criminals".

She also added further, stating, "They completely cordoned off athletics from the stadium. They have set up barricades around the pitch and have private security guards at all four ends of the track so that we don’t even touch the grass. They warned coaches if they tried to move the barricades, they would be arrested. This is a ridiculous way to treat fellow sportspersons."

According to the 51-year-old, who also had a number of other grievances, she had repeatedly tried to contact the CEO of JSW Sports (Bengaluru FC’s owners) but to no avail. As a last resort, she and the other athletes decided to file a PIL against the club.

Given that the AIFF Club Licensing deadline is on 21st September, Bengaluru FC had no option but to name an alternate venue to host their ISL and AFC Champions League games for the next season. With the fate of the Kanteerava still in the balance, the JSW management had no choice but to take a stance.

What could the AIFF have done to handle the situation?

According to Joy Bhattacharya, an eminent sports quizzer and the CEO of the Pro Volleyball league, the Karnataka Football Association (KFA) had plans to develop a new stadium in the city in 2014. It was supposed to be completed by the time the U-17 FIFA World Cup 2017 rolled in, but not a single brick has been laid so far. The sad state of affairs meant that Bengaluru FC had to keep sharing the Kanteerava with other athletes, but they had strict policies in place when it came to protecting the facilities and the turf on their pitch.

That posed a huge problem for other athletes, who often come to practice at the Kanteerava. Used to practicing on natural turf, they found the synthetic tracks surrounding the football pitch not conducive to practice. Moreover, the footballers’ had worn the tracks down with their boots, so it made life all the more harder.

The AIFF and the KFA had already identified these pain points several years back but a lack of commitment and action from both parties meant no proper backup options were developed within the city. Bengaluru FC enjoys a huge support from football-loving fans in the city, who have contributed massively to the rise and development of Indian football culture down the years. To deprive these fans the opportunity to watch their team play in their own city would not only tantamount to a huge loss in opportunity and revenue but would permanently damage the growth of the local football ecosystem.

Quite like the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata which holds many athletic meets and other non-football events, one hopes that the JSW and KAA can work out a similar agreement to use the Kanteerava for all sporting activities. Of course, stringent guidelines would be in place to ensure no sport gets prioritized at the cost of another but for the sake of the city, a discussion along these lines should be meshed out sooner rather than later.

What can the AIFF do now to resolve the situation?

To be very honest, the matter already seems to be out of the AIFF’s hands now. Their reactive and lackadaisical approach has already been Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City relocate to Odisha and Hyderabad respectively. With East Bengal also facing problems to play from the Salt Lake Stadium next season, the relocation of Bengaluru FC could cause a colossal ruckus from both the stakeholders and football fans across the country. It could potentially turn into a movement that could shake the AIFF to its very core, but it is also probably something that has been coming for a while.

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