Guwahati, Oct. 17: Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast, today added another feather to its cap with the city confirmed as a venue for the proposed cash-rich IMG-Reliance football league commencing early next year.
IMG-Reliance and the Sports Authority of Assam (SAA) this evening signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), putting the seal of confirmation for the city as one of the eight venues as well as a franchise city of one of the eight teams. The league, which will feature leading overseas players, is tentatively scheduled from January to March every year.
Confirming the development, SAA vice-chairman Rana Goswami told The Telegraph that the MoU was signed for a period of five years. “It was signed by their (IMG-Reliance) representative Salin and by myself and director-general Ratul Chandra Duarah on behalf of SAA, in the presence of AIFF vice-president from the Northeast, Larsing Ming Sawyan in Guwahati this evening,” Goswami said.
“According to the MoU, the city will play host to seven matches and the rent for the infrastructure will be Rs 2 lakh per match. Besides, the organisers (IMG-Reliance) will pay Rs 60,000 per day as rent for ground preparation and pre-match practice days. An amount of Rs 25 crore will also be deposited with us as security,” Goswami said.
About the preparation of the infrastructure, Goswami said: “Tender has been floated for installation of additional lights at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium. The turf development work will commence on Monday. Other related works will also be completed well ahead of time.”
The existing 1,000-lux floodlights will have to be increased to 2,000 to facilitate high definition telecast. The turf will have to be renovated by planting new grass and the dressing rooms and washrooms will have to be renovated within a span of two months.
Guwahati and Hyderabad were originally reserved venues and chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who is also the SSA chairman, took a personal initiative to ensure a venue for the region. Immediately after the first inspection by IMG-Reliance representatives two months ago, who suggested the renovation works, Gogoi had directed all departments concerned to take the necessary steps.
“This is a new chapter added to the history of football in the Northeast. I would like to personally thank the Assam chief minister for taking the initiative. Being an AIFF vice-president from the region, I had an opportunity to brief him about the league. I told him that it was necessary for the region to be part of this new venture in football after the region is represented in the I-League and Guwahati is the only city that qualifies for it. He took it up quite seriously and ensured the city as a venue,” Sawyan said.
“This is going to help football grow by leaps and bounds in this talent pocket of the nation,” he added.
About the city having a franchise team, Assam Football Association secretary Ankur Dutta said, “Every venue city is bound to be a franchise team owner. Thus, Guwahati will definitely be a franchise team.”
Like the Indian Premier League teams, every team will comprise leading international stars, apart from Indian national players as well as local players.