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Sports Authority of India relents, but Academies n (4/20/2007)
--s2h team
Sports Authority of India (SAI), which demanded both Air India-National Hockey Academy and Punjab National Bank Academy to vacate from its present locations, National Stadium owned by it, before 1st April, has relented for now. It has now given two more months for the academies to vacate.

Both the Academies have been functioning from the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium premises since their inception. The stadium now boasts of two international grade synthetic turfs, which helped the budding players to hone their skills. The Academies, which has about 25 players each in its roll, were allotted land for accommodation by the SAI a couple of years ago in its sprawling campus. Grabbing the opportunity, PNB has constructed Rs.30 lac worth shelter, hardly 10 yards away from the second turf. Air India is yet to construct its shelter.

However, since six months or more, the SAI served a notice to these Academies to vacate the Stadium premises, as it wanted to clear the campus of any activity before handing over the stadium to Public Works Department, which will be in charge of renovating the stadium for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and Men’s hockey World Cup.

Considering the fact that the stadium campus is very huge (it has swimming, cricket, boxing, wrestling facilities all in the same place), SAI’s logic of asking the academies to vacate for three years to facilitate renovation came in for surprise. Sources in the Academies maintain that this is a conspiracy to drive them out of a prime location so that some bureaucratic offices could be accommodated at the cost of grass root hockey.

Media reports highlighted the issue last fortnight, and questioned the motive behind. This writer was part of a panel discussion on a television channel (Headlines Today) a couple of days before. What irked the watchers was the fact that electricity and water supply were cut off on 1st April and the Academies have been put in difficulties because of this black mail practice by a body that was primarily to protect and promote them. In fact, both IHF and IWHF have also been advised to vacate.

It was so strange that the authorities, be it Secretary or Director General, of SAI refused to come on to press and express their views. Only comment they made was ‘it was a matter between them and the academies’.

For those new to the issue, it is worthmentioning that the Air India Academy has so far produced about 30 internationals and one third of players who played in the last Premier Hockey League was from its ranks, present and former. The PNB Academy, though very young in age compared to 16-year saga of Air India Academy, too coming up well. Delhi State reached the finals of National Championship after a gap of 60 years, at Jalandhar last year. 15 out of 18 of that team came from PNB Academy alone.

The Academies maintain that in cae of emergency they have got alternate place nearby and be shifted, but the turf should be available to them for practice. But SAI hands out them a list of 11 centres where the academies can be shifted. The perusal of the list proves some in the list, like Sonepat, does not have synthetic turf at all!!

Being located in the vicinity of city’s landmarks such as Parliament, Supreme Court, India Gate (World War Memorial) and others, the stadium is a well sought after one. Major functions are often carried out here, generating in its wake huge revenue for the SAI. All these years, despite renovation for Afro-Asian Games and hosting many meets, the Academies have never been disturbed.

Now it is time for the Authorities to give sports and sportspersons pride of place in their scheme of thinking rather than bureaucratic conveniences.

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