Guwahati, Jan. 27: Assam Football Association secretary Ankur Dutta has mooted the removal of the bureaucracy out of sports management and handing over the reins to purely professionals with categorical instructions for usage of the infrastructure only for sports.
Dutta allayed fears that the city will be out of the race for a venue for the 2017 Junior World Cup, if India is allotted the mega event. He said it will, however, be feasible “only if the government comes forward with a professional approach towards the maintenance and utilisation of infrastructure in the city”.
“It is very unfortunate that the February 6 (India-Palestine friendly) match is shifted. But it is never too late. Guwahati will not lose the opportunity in the future. The only need of the hour is a clear directive from Dispur that sports infrastructure is meant only for sports and not a single non-sports event is allowed there. The bureaucrats, however, cannot implement such a directive. So, Sports Authority of Assam should be given more autonomy and the reins handed over to a sports management professional who cannot be influenced in any way by the powers that be in Dispur or elsewhere,” Dutta said.
“The problem of infrastructure maintenance is prevalent across the nation because most of the stadia in the country are owned by the government and managed by bureaucrats who have their own limitations and obligations. Assam is no exception. Our bureaucrats often come under pressure from higher-ups and politicians to permit events, which damage the stadium grounds and tracks because there is no categorical instuction like that of Judges Field,” Dutta, who is recuperating from a limb injury in a city hospital, said.
“I have no issues with bureaucrats handling the affairs as long as they are given a free hand to discharge duty towards maintenance and development of the infrastructure as well as sports,” he, however, said, adding that the sports organisers should also be taken into confidence in doing so.
Holding non-maintenance of the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium and non-sports activities like flag down of India-Asean car rally and police motorcycle stunt shows responsible for the shifting of the football match, Dutta said: “We had informed the government, including chief minister Tarun Gogoi, by the end of November itself when we were allotted the match. But, we were told that preparation work could be started only after December 16, which practically extended till the first week of January before the ground was cleared of the pandals and nails and glass.
“After that, the AIFF had sent in curator Anil Malhotra who helped us grow grass on the turf. But it was too late by then to prepare a ground, damaged so badly, for an international match.”
Thanking the government for the creation of the state-of-the-art infrastructure in the city for the 33rd National Games, the AFA secretary said: “We will remain grateful to the chief minister if he takes the initiative of proper maintenance and utilisation of the assets for development of sports only.”
The stadium concerned is used more for musical programmes, concerts and government functions, which damage the ground as well as the athletics track.