“The CDA owes IESCO one year of outstanding electricity dues for the ground, which comes to Rs251,000,” CDA Spokesperson Masoodur Rehman said.
No electricity at the ground means it cannot be used after sunset, which is the most popular time for football.
The ground used to be a haven for amateur football players, with booking rates for a 90-minute game during daylight standing at Rs1,500, rising to Rs2,500 under floodlights.
As recently as 2010, around 40 football matches were held at the ground every week generating an estimated monthly income of Rs300,000 on average, according to Hussain Ali, who managed the ground from 2007 to 2010 for a private contractor under a revenue-sharing agreement with the CDA.
The private contractor used its own generators to combat load shedding, but when the CDA’s sports and culture directorate took over management of the ground in October 2010, playing hours reduced due to the lack of generators.
From bad to worse
“Bookings have reduced to only 10% of full capacity,” said Ali, who often reserves the ground and the adjoining tennis court to organise private sporting events. “The ground used to be occupied for over eight hours back in the day, but in the last three weeks it is only being used from 4:30pm to 6pm on weekdays.”
Bhindiz Football Club captain Zohaib Yasin and his team mates were regulars at the F-6 football ground. They all have day jobs and used to play three-days-a-week after office hours. That is, until the lights went dim.
“Not only has this caused a loss of revenue to the CDA, it has also taken away an opportunity from footballers,” Yasin said.
Rehman told The Express Tribune there was “definitely a reduction in revenue generation” at the ground, but the CDA was still getting some money from membership fees.
The ground has a membership plan that comes with a Rs5,000 registration fee and a Rs500 monthly charge. Members get preferential treatment and can play during the first 90-minute slot on weekdays. Rehman said the ground can also be booked for a day for Rs7,500.
The football ground in the multipurpose sports facility is the only mini-football ground in the capital with artificial grass. Opened in 2007, it was run by a private contractor, Salem Sports and Leisure, for the first three years, and saw required maintenance regularly take place.
However, Since the CDA took charge of the ground in late 2010, it has quickly started resembling many of the dilapidated state facilities in the city. The divider nets along the ground and the goal nets are tattered and the artificial grass is worn out. The power cut is just another in a series of blows.
This is not the first time that lights have gone out, though.
“Last year, electricity was also cut off due to nonpayment of bills,” Rehman said. “The CDA paid IESCO around Rs200,000 to get the connection back.”
The ground uses a single-phase electricity meter and electricity dues run to around Rs200,000 per year on average, Ali said, or less than Rs17,000 a month.
Given the potential for revenue generation from the ground, it seems like paying the bill shouldn’t be a major problem. But formal procedures delay bill payments and further hinder revenue generation.
“The revenue from the ground comes to CDA’s revenue directorate,” Rehman said. “The sports and culture directorate cannot make the electricity payment directly. That’s the procedure.”
Meanwhile, the demand for more football facilities in Islamabad remains.
“If there are more football grounds, they will provide an avenue for the youth to engage in a healthy activity and prevent them from getting involved in bad habits,” Yasin said.
He said CDA should consider constructing these grounds through public-private partnerships, whereby the management of the grounds is handed over to a third party.
“The CDA can make a lot of money from this,” Yasin said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2012.