New Delhi: With empty seats due to lack of official clearance for a few stands becoming an eyesore during IPL matches in Chennai, there is a move within the BCCI to shift the eliminator and the final to an alternate venue to ensure a full house.
While most of the other venues have attracted capacity crowd, Chennai has been an aberration with as many as 12,000 seats going empty because clearance from the city planning department for want of building approval is still awaited. The three stands - G, H and I - each of them with capacity of 4,000 seats, remained unoccupied since the West Indies-India one-dayer in November last year and the subsequent Champions League Twenty20 tournament as well.
Although no BCCI official is willing to speak openly on this issue, there are murmurs of a move to get the marquee matches (eliminator on May 25 and final on May 27) out of Chennai. "We have witnessed amazing response at all the venues of this year's IPL. It will be a pity if the final is played in front of a half-empty stadium. Therefore, the possibility of shifting the matches from Chennai is being explored," a top BCCI official said.
The new-look galleries were built after demolishing the old stands as part of redevelopment of the four-decade-old Chepauk stadium. But it has been sealed since October last after the Chennai Corporation issued a lock and seal notice citing lack of building approval. The stands were open during the World Cup last year.
Initially, the IPL authorities were told that the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association would get the requisite approvals for the three galleries within the first few games. "But now we are heading towards the business end of the IPL and there is still no sign of the matter being resolved.
Whatever decision needs to be taken has to be done within a week as a lot of work is required when you shift matches to a new venue," the official said. As an alternative venue, the BCCI has shortlisted the DY Patil Stadium and the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, and the venues in Pune, Kolkata and Bangalore.
When contacted, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla said he was not aware of any such move. "As far as I am concerned, there is no such plan to shift the venue," Shukla said. TNCA secretary Kashi Vishwanathan also said that they were not aware of such development. "I have no information, what can I say," he said.
On whether the TNCA would be able to procure the approval ahead of playoffs, Vishwanathan said, "I am not aware of that, so I can't comment."
The BCCI will stand to lose about Rs 2 crore for each of the matches in Chennai if the stands continue to go empty due to administrative hassles. Apart from the IPL authorities being concerned about the empty stands, there is also pressure from the TV rights holders to hold the final at a venue which guarantees a capacity turnout.
"It does not make a good picture to see empty stands, particularly in the finals," another influential BCCI source stated about broadcasters' apprehension. "The demand for tickets has seen an unprecedented high this season. Even a franchise co-owner like Shah Rukh Khan could not get enough tickets to accommodate his close friends for the Delhi Daredevils vs Kolkata Knight Riders match," the source added.
"So, when the demand for tickets is so high, how can we have a match in a half-empty stadium."
In Chennai, after the corporation action, TNCA had approached the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) for approval and the process of getting clearance is still underway. Once the approval was obtained, the capacity would go up to around 40,000. There is a lot of demand for tickets but it is still not clear when the three stands would be opened for general public.