Sports Ministry’s wait-and-watch approach on plan to privatise stadiums

Sports Ministry has this to say on plans to privatise stadiums

Neither averse to the idea nor party to it right now. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has sought a detailed proposal from the Central Government about its plans to privatise premium sports infrastructure like the iconic Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium here.

As part of its plan to monetise land and assets for meeting the highest-ever divestment target of ₹1.05 trillion, the Government has plans to throw open Indian Railways’ heritage routes and stadia, including the JLN, for private sector investments.

“Yes, one of the members of Niti Aayog has mooted the idea during a recent meeting but our stand remains clear, we want the stadiums to be utilised only for the country’s elite sportspersons,” a top Sports Ministry official said.

Besides JLN, the Government has suggested that two more stadia – the Sports Authority of India’s Indira Gandhi Sports Complex (Delhi) and Railsways’ Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi – be put under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

The JLN is a multi-purpose facility which has hosted the athletics events of the 2010 Commonwealth Games besides matches of the 2017 Under-17 football World Cup.

The IGI is an indoor facility which has hosted international and national events for boxing and wrestling. The Karnail Singh stadium is a venue for Ranji Trophy cricket matches and a multi-purpose stadium. It is the home ground of the Railways team.

The official said that the Sports Ministry wants to have a clear idea about the Government’s plans on how the stadiums will be utilised once private players enter the scene. “We have sought a detailed proposal from the Niti Aayog on how the infrastructure will be utilised under the PPP model. We are neither against the idea nor agreeing to it for now as we want the stadiums to be utilised only for elite sports,” he added.

The official further said the Sports Ministry is not going to compromise the interest of the athletes in this regard. “The IGI stadium has the only world-class cycling velodrome in the country where elite sportspersons can train. The interest of our athletes comes first,” he said.

The official said a final decision on this matter will only be taken after examining the proposal.

“Let them (Niti Ayog) give us the proposal first, we will elaborately study it and see what is in the best interest of our athletes. We won’t take any decision which is against the country’s sportspersons,” he said.

He revealed that two rounds of meeting in this regard are already over but no new dates for further discussions have been set aside as of now.