Football Delhi seeks Ambedkar Stadium on 20-year lease

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The governing body for football in the Capital, Football Delhi is keen to get the Ambedkar Stadium on at least a 20-year lease. The traditional football hub in Delhi is owned by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Football Delhi, previously the Delhi Soccer Association, in its proposal has submitted to invest ₹2 crore to upgrade the facility over the next three years. An international standard turf will be the top priority among various developmental plans.

The proposal, mooted by Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran, urges the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to lease out the Ambedkar Stadium to the State governing and administrative body for football for a minimum of 20 years.

The proposal provides that the South Delhi Municipal Corporation will be able to use the stadium for up to 25 days in a year. For the rest of the period the facility will be used for competitions and development of football.

“The SDMC can do a big service to football by considering our request. The civic body offices may be accommodated in the Civic Centre, merely a kilometre from the stadium. One of the football association offices at the Ambedkar Stadium has been demolished for metro construction. We couldn’t get an alternate accommodation. The meeting room is used as a computer room. I am sure the civic body will be happy to help football as it now has huge and appropriate infrastructure to accommodate offices. The SDMC will do a great service to the sport by considering our proposal,” veteran Delhi Football administrator and treasurer NK Bhatia

Delhi once had football grounds spread across the city. Players are now denied access to some of the facilities for security reasons, while many others have fallen prey to “development and beautification” drives. Football has been the biggest victim as there are only a few facilities left. Huge structures like the Nehru Stadium remain out of bounds for common players.

The football hub in the city needs an upgradation. The turf is uneven and the stadium structure is inappropriate to hold big gatherings. The usage of the infrastructure for events other than football further leaves the turf unplayable. The SDMC has little resources to maintain the stadium as a good football facility.

The Football Delhi proposal will not just ensure upgradation of the stadium, but also help the municipal corporation financially. It will also not be an unprecedented move for the civic body, which has leased out the adjacent Ferozeshah Kotla ground to the Delhi and District Cricket Association for 99 years.

“We have a certain roadmap for developing the Ambedkar Stadium for football. We are committing a fee in lieu of the lease. We will maintain and develop the ground and the stadium. So, the corporation will get some revenue while also saving what it is made to spend now. Ferozeshah Kotla is one very good example. I am optimistic that our proposal will be considered favourably,” said Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran.

“This will be a win, win situation for the SDMC, Football Delhi, the players and the football fraternity.”

The Ambedkar Stadium upgradation will also result in the venue getting to host the I-League and Indian Super League matches. That will bring more crowds to the games because of the location of the stadium provides the fans with easy access, a closer view of the action and more excitement to the players for the lightening atmosphere.

The best civic sports facilities globally are used by the national- and State-level sporty bodies. Football Delhi administration is optimistic that with the SDMC support they can give the sport a new much needed facelift.