Bringing joy to cricket fans, the nearly seven-year rift between the State government and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association over rent arrears has come to an end. MA Chidambaram Stadium will hold its full seating capacity, close to 40,000 seats, again in December.
“The State government has decided to accept certain concessions asked by the Madras Cricket Club and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association related to the pending arrears to the tune of several crores,” State Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar told DT Next.
“The matter has been taken up with the State Cabinet led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. The concessions that can be offered and the lease terms that must be followed are under consideration. The State has decided to reach a decision on the three cricket stands in question, considering the interest of cricket fans and sports fraternity,” the Minister said.
When asked about DMK allegations over transparency in the issue related to writing off several hundreds of crores, the Minister said that a detailed government order will be issued in this regard. The terms and agreements are yet to be finalised, but as usual, the opposition is crying foul on the issue for cheap political mileage. Wait for a few more days, the order will be made public, the minister said. According to top official sources, the offices of Chief Secretary and revenue secretary are working on the government order to be issued soon. The order will have conditions under which the arrears
should be paid in instalments with an initial payment. Already a committee comprising Revenue and Finance secretaries Atulya Misra and S Krishnan have collected details related to the activities being carried out inside the stadium.
In 2010, a GO was passed using a formula under which the rents were fixed in proportion to the revenue made by the stadium through tickets and other copyrights. However, this was contended by the TNCA stating that the fixed rents were exorbitant, leading to a litigation pending before the Madras High Court, official sources said.
In 2012, the TNCA renovated three stands inside the stadium for which the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority slapped a lock and seal notice for constructing the stands without planning approval. In 2017, a report of Comptroller of Auditor General report tabled in the Legislative Assembly charged that TNCA and Madras Cricket Club located inside the stadium owed rent areas to a sum of Rs 2,081 crore accumulated over 15 years. The 32-ground land on which the stadium is functioning belongs to the Revenue Department.
MAC is back for more special moments, starting with ODI
The MA Chidambaram Stadium, which is set to host the upcoming One-Day International between India and the West Indies on December 15, will, in all likelihood, witness a packed house after six-and-a-half years.
Due to legal issues, stands I, J and K hadn’t been functional for the majority of matches since the 2011 World Cup. The last time the arena had a capacity crowd, Chennai’s adopted son Mahendra Singh Dhoni struck his first and only double-century in Tests against Australia, giving his faithful paisa vasool entertainment.
Since the Indo-Oz clash in February 2013, the iconic MAC has been hosting international and domestic fixtures with nearly 1/3rd of the venue unavailable for seating. Apart from the three stands, the Madras Cricket Club stand, which is an extension of the Anna Pavilion, had also been shut down.
As a result of this, around 12,000 seats (including the ones in the three hospitality boxes) had gone to waste, depriving unlucky aficionados of a few beautiful moments. It was at this very venue middle-order batsman Karun Nair became only the second Indian to smash a triple-century in the longest format, against England in 2016. Virat Kohli (India) and AB de Villiers (South Africa), two of the greatest cricketers to have graced the game, hit a ton each during an ODI in 2015. The Stadium will be back to its best when West Indies crosses swords with India next month. “The issue will be resolved before the ODI duel and the entire stadium will be available for seating,” said a source.
This is the kind of news the supporters were craving for. Fans, who usually queue up in numbers on the day of ticket sale, used to return home empty-handed because of the lesser percentage of seats allocated to the public. The players would be equally delighted with the move as they will not have to stare at empty chairs for half of the encounter, which was earlier the case.
Paying the price in the past: As the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) had failed to get approval from the Tamil Nadu government, the Chepauk Stadium missed out on hosting the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 summit clash, which was eventually shifted to the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. The IPL organisers weren’t in favour of conducting a title decider in front of three empty stands. Since the 2011 WC, the arena had been given permission only thrice to reopen those stands. They were made available for two IPL 2012 duels (Qualifier 2 and final) and for an ODI between India and Pakistan at the end of the same year.
Ticket prices: An upper-level ticket, which had offered the spectator a seat in either of I, J or K stands, cost around Rs 2000 in 2012. The fans had been charged Rs 1500 for lower-level seats. With ticket prices reaching an all-time high in the past few years, the host association must have incurred huge losses because of the unused stands.