Chennai out, tri-nation football series venue switch burns hole in AIFF’s pocket | football | Hindustan Times
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Chennai out, tri-nation football series venue switch burns hole in AIFF’s pocket

The tri-nation football series venue change from Chennai to Mumbai at the last minute reflects poorly on the All India Football Federation’s planning. India will kick off versus Mauritius

football Updated: Aug 11, 2017 08:40 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
The Indian football team is set to face lower-ranked opponents Mauritius and St. Kitts and Nevis at the tri-nation tournament.
The Indian football team is set to face lower-ranked opponents Mauritius and St. Kitts and Nevis at the tri-nation tournament.(AIFF file photo)

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is set to be poorer by a seven-figure sum after a last-minute decision to shift the venue for next week’s three-nation invitation tournament involving India, Mauritius and St. Kitts and Nevis, the two visiting teams ranked 160 and 125, respectively -- from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai to the Mumbai Football Arena.

The sudden venue change for the August 19-24 tournament has been blamed by the federation on ‘atrocious’ amounts being charged by the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), which runs the Chennai stadium.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told Hindustan Times: “We had already spent Rs 15 lakh on the pitch; now the work has been stopped, so that money has gone down the drain.”

“It would have cost us around Rs 3.5-4 lakh per day to hold the tournament in Chennai. For each day of training, they were charging Rs 75,000 per ground,” he added.

Das claimed SDAT had showed little interest in the tournament. “We’ve been speaking to them for more than a month, I think. They said they would get back to us. We just assumed they would get back, but they just kept on delaying,” he said.

SDAT refutes claims

However, SDAT general manager, Charles Manohar, refuted AIFF’s allegations. He claimed the football body neither sought a quotation of the rates while deciding on Chennai as the venue nor approach the SDAT seeking concession.

“AIFF did not approach us directly. They approached us through the Tamil Nadu Football Association (TFA). TFA was very well aware of the user fees. Even then, the AIFF never asked us for a concession,” Manohar said.

“They wanted the government’s permission for using the ground. We have sent them tariff fixed by the government. They never us asked any queries. If they felt the rent was high, they should have approached us. None of them called me (to request a reduction),” he added.

The tri-nation football series matches have now been moved from Chennai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. (File photo)

A well-placed AIFF source told Hindustan Times that the federation stood to lose at least Rs 65-70 lakh due to the venue change and extra air fare, adding that renovation of the ground had cost AIFF close to Rs 25 lakh.

“AIFF had started the pitch renovation. Five-star accommodation for the visiting teams had been booked and advance was paid. Tickets for the away teams have not been booked, and with less than six days left, prices are soaring,” the source revealed.

Soaring costs

The indecision over the venue until a week before the event is likely to add to AIFF’s costs. For instance, the cheapest ticket for a round trip from St. Kitts and Nevis to Mumbai between August 15-28 is close to Rs. 2.5 lakh on portals, as on Thursday. The Caribbeans are sending a 25-member team. “Air fare itself has doubled,” federation sources said.

To put AIFF’s likely losses into perspective, its budgeted expenditure for coach education for 2017/18, as per its strategic plan budget for 2014-18, is Rs. 18 lakh.

Mumbai will now see the return of international football after almost a year, having hosted India’s 4-1 friendly win over Puerto Rico last year, the episode robs Chennai, which last hosted a match involving India in 2007, of a chance to host an international game after a decade.

TRI-NATION FIXTURES:

August 19: India vs Mauritius

August 22: St Kitts & Nevis vs Mauritius

August 24: India vs St. Kitts & Nevis.

The tri-nation series is part of Team India’s preparation for the AFC Asian Cup qualifying away match against Macau on September 5.