The Karnataka High Court has ordered the state government to conduct a probe into the manner in which the Sree Kanteerava stadium was allowed to be used by JSW Bengaluru Football Club for the past three years. The stadium comprises of a football field and an athletics track around it and athletes say that the football club has made alterations at the stadium ever since the club began using it.
The court has asked the state government to formulate a policy for the use of government stadiums by third parties as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court, which says government properties cannot be leased without public notice and bidding.
The division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice HT Narendra Prasad issued the order for a probe while hearing a petition filed by former national and international athletes including Ashwini Nachappa, GG Prameela, and others against Bengaluru FC over its use of the Kanteerava Stadium.
"Firstly, a public notice should have been given and a bidding process should be there in allowing Bengaluru FC to use the stadium. After the initial lease period ended, it has been extended without due process," says SD Eashan, an international shot-putter and Asian games medalist, who is also one of the petitioners. He is among 49 athletes petitioning against the football club.
"Natural grass on the field was removed (by the club) and artificial grass was put in its place and sand has also been used on the field. On days before matches, the first track is blocked by advertising hoarding and wires used for the football matches. This is impeding athletes training at the stadium," says Eashan.
The athletes also point out that the stadium was originally built for athletics ahead of the 1997 National Games.
The stadium has simultaneously been the home stadium of the football club since 2014. The football club was allowed to use the stadiumâ€™s track and field area by the DYES in order to gear up facilities at the stadium as one of the cities hosting the 2017 FIFA U-17 World. Eventually, Bengaluru was dropped as one of the host cities after a delay in infrastructure works at the stadium.
The club signed a three-year agreement to use the facilities at the stadium in 2014 and then extended it in 2017. The club has played all its home matches since 2014 at the stadium. The counsel appearing for the football club informed the court that the present agreement with the stadium has ended and that a plea for renewing it is under consideration before the state government. The counsel further said the stadium was upgraded by spending around for â‚¹5 crore.
A Bengaluru FC official declined to comment on the issue until the case is resolved.
Football fans have been thronging to watch Bengaluru FC games in the stadium for five years now with the attendance crossing 20,000 on some occasions. The 2018 ISL final was played at the Kanteerava stadium in which Bengaluru was beaten 3-2 by Chennaiyin FC.