Indian Super League (ISL) champions JSW Bengaluru Football Club will continue to play their home games at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, the club confirmed in a social media post.
The club stated that it has received permission from the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) to use the facilities at the stadium for the upcoming ISL season.
The DYES has has issued a letter of consent to Bengaluru FC to hold its matches at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The club will pay around Rs 78 lakh to reserve the stadium, which will be used for 20-30 days in the upcoming ISL season, a DYES official confirmed. The letter was issued following an order passed by the Karnataka High Court while hearing a petition filed by JSW (owners of BFC).
"Weâ€™d like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Karnataka, the Sports Ministry, the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports, the Karnataka Athletic Association and all other stakeholders and associations for their support in making this happen," read a statement by the club.
The club was forced to enlist Pune's Balewadi Stadium as its home venue due to an ongoing court case regarding the use of the Kanteerava Stadium, which is shared by athletes of the Karnataka Athletics Association for practice and events.
This case is different from the club's petition being heard by the High Court which prompted the court order allowing the use of the stadium by the club.
A group of 49 athletes including former India sprinter Ashwini Nachappa and former Indian shot-putter SD Eashan had petitioned the Karnataka High Court questioning the use of the stadiumâ€™s track and field area for football activities. The athletes contended that the presence of advertising boards and technical equipment, including wires, hindered track and field athletes who simultaneously use the facilities at the stadium. The case is still being heard in the Karnataka High Court and a probe was ordered to look into the manner in which the Kanteerava stadium was allowed to be used by Bengaluru FC for the past three years.
"We are not against football being played in the stadium but there was a point when the football club took over the use of the stadium. We appealed to the officials in 2017 that the football activities is killing the activities of all other sports. The track area was being impeded by advertising hoardings and wires in the days leading up to matches. This affected the training of athletes belonging to many other sports. Where should the athletes go in this situation?" SD Eashan, one of the petitioners, told TNM.
Bengaluru FC, formed in 2013, has played its home matches at the Kanteerava Stadium since 2014. The club played its home matches at the Bengaluru Football Stadium located in McGrath Road in the city for its first season. The club now uses this ground for training and only plays matches at the Kanteerava Stadium. The club has also restricted its use of the stadium to match-days.
The petitioners also argued that the football club extended the lease period to use the facilities at the Kanteerava Stadium in 2017 without following due process. The initial lease period which began in 2014 ended in 2017. During this period, the football club planned to gear up facilities at the stadium as it was one of the stadiums listed as a venue to host games at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Eventually, Bengaluru was dropped as one of the host cities after a delay in infrastructure works at the stadium.
"The lease was extended in 2017 without following due process. A public notice should have been given followed by a bidding process in allowing Bengaluru FC to use the stadium," said SD Eashan.
The counsel appearing for Bengaluru FC informed the Karnataka High Court that the club owners upgraded the facilities at the stadium. This included replacing the natural grass at the stadium with artificial grass.
The stadium is beloved by fans of the football club since it has also played host to memorable fixtures like the 3-1 win against Johor Darul Ta'zim that sent Bengaluru FC to the AFC Cup final in 2016. The 2018 ISL final was also played at the Kanteerava stadium in which Bengaluru was beaten 3-2 by Chennaiyin FC. Ever since the club shifted from the I-League to the ISL in 2017, attendances for matches at the Kanteerava Stadium have increased, crossing 20,000 people on some occasions.
The 2019-20 ISL season is set to begin this month with Bengaluru FC playing its first home game against Northeast United FC on October 21