Kerala Blasters to stay in Kochi for the time being

Yellow Army
There has been no dearth of support for Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. File photo
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Kochi: The possibility of Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters shifting base to Kozhikode and playing matches next season at the EMS Corporation Stadium appears remote.

It is most likely that the Yellow Brigade will continue to play their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kaloor, the club’s home ground since the start of ISL in 2014.

Recently, the club officials had met representatives from the Kozhikode Municipal Corporation to discuss the possibility of playing at the Corporation-owned EMS Stadium. However, the club might put on hold its plans to play a few of their next season's home matches at the venue on the grounds of administrative inconvenience and practical difficulties.

The club is learnt to be exploring the possibility of hosting some of its home matches at the EMS Stadium if the ISL sees an increase in the number of matches to be played by each team to 27 from the existing 18 games from the 2020-21 campaign as proposed by  the organisers.

GKFC
The EMS Stadium in Kozhikode is the home ground of Gokulam Kerala FC. File photo

As the EMS Stadium is also home to Gokulam Kerala FC, it is to be seen whether the I-League side is willing to share the venue with Blasters. Even if Gokulam, who are planning to renew their lease for the stadium for the next season, do not object to conducting ISL matches on their home turf, there is work that needs to be done at the venue to meet the requirements of the league.

There were reports that Blasters were mulling over shifting their home base from Kochi to Kozhikode as part of their restructuring and cost-cutting plans. But logically speaking, the move will only put additional financial burden on the franchise.

Also, if Gokulam and Blasters reach an agreement to share the venue, they could be confronted with a scenario where their home matches are scheduled for the same day. If such a situation arises, it remains to be seen whether ISL organisers Football Sports Development Limited and the All India Football Federation, who conducts the I-League, are ready to change league schedule and fixtures for the convenience of two teams.

Champs
Kerala Blasters won the KPL this year. File photo

Moreover, two teams playing in different leagues sharing a venue will be a huge headache for groundsmen when there are back-to-back matches. Advertisement hoardings and sponsorship logos associated with each team put on display inside the stadium will have to be cleared off and reinstalled after every match.

It is also going to be a logistical nightmare, especially for people associated with the telecast of matches. The crew of Star Sports, the official broadcasters of ISL in India, will have to shuttle between Kochi and Kozhikode with their cameras and other equipment. In all probability, Star Sports will object to such an arrangement.

Also, the EMS Stadium falls short of meeting many requirements stipulated by the ISL. The seating arrangement has to be overhauled and the concrete pillars that obstruct views within parts of the stadium removed. So if Blasters are to play in Kozhikode, the organisers will have to carry out several structural changes at the venue so that it meets the requisite ISL norms.

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