Will land dispute make no-show of FEI World show jumping championship in Bengaluru?

A turf dispute between equestrian club ECE and the owners of the club’s 3-acre grounds, ahead of a major international show-jumping event, has not only left organisers red-faced and uncertain, but has also, literally, left participants and their horses stranded at the gates without food or water.

The Federation Equestrian Internationale (FEI) World Show Jumping championship is scheduled to begin in Bengaluru on Saturday. But the landowners, Chandrashekar Raju and his younger brother Srinivas Raju, have closed the gates of the Equestrian Center for Excellence (ECE) on Jayamahal Road. Horses inside are not allowed to be moved, and riders have no place to go. A couple of horse floats that arrived from other states were not permitted to enter the venue on Tuesday. A couple more from Puduc­herry and Ooty were expected on Wednesday night.

Waiting for hours at the gate after the long travel and, more importantly, without food or water, the horses are not in their best shape.

The shocked directors of the club revealed that the ‘condemnable’ attitude of the owners, who are throwing a spanner in the wheel, would badly affect the horses and their riders, who are here from across the country.

A CRITICAL EVENT
“We are hosting a world championship event and based on the performances in this meet the Indians gain a ticket to compete in international events. We cannot afford to back out. A lot of preparation has been done and we just cannot deny the Indian riders an opportunity on Indian soil,” said an ECE committee member, adding that the decision-makers of the club are open to dialogue with the owners but the Raju brothers are adamant and have their swords out, making it tough for the hosts.

The members of the club disclosed that the equestrian club has been conducting sporting activities over the 3-acre property for more than 20 years, and at least 60 horses are stabled at this premier centre, which has produced a number of top Indian riders.

“We successfully bid to host the world championship. If we back out, we will be blacklisted by FEI and that will be a big embarrassment for the sport in India,” said an official spokesman of the club.

More than 50 riders have missed out on training for the last two days simply because their horses were denied entry. These riders say the onus is on the host club to seek a solution and help the horses and riders coming in to participate.

“Based on the performance at this event, you get the chance to compete against the best on international circuit and we cannot afford to miss out on the chance to compete in a FEI event,” said a worried top Indian rider.

THE DISPUTE
The bone of contention, it is learnt, is that the owners of the land had issued a notice to ECE to vacate in March 2016, unless the club pays commercial rent for the 3-acre land. The owners also contended that the club, in November 2015, illegally built a small restaurant.

The ECE managing committee, when asked about the alleged illegal construction, furnished the document which confirms that the owners had provided the club the permission to build a cafeteria and washrooms mandatory to host any international event. And, about asking the club to pay commercial rent, the ECE committee members pointed out that no sporting club in the city is asked to pay a commercial rent for a stadium or a ground and in this case, it could run into a few crores and this defies logic.

THE LOGIC
What is most shocking in this battle with the 20-year-old leading equestrian sports club, with a licence agreement renewable every 11 months and paying a monthly rent of Rs.1.18 lakh, is that it cannot shift out and vacate the land at a short three-month notice. What happens to the more than 50 pedigree horses and their riders who have spent a fortune investing on the horses?

This apart, more than 60 syces (who take care of the horses), including farriers (smiths who shoe horses) and coaches, will lose jobs. The members pointed out that the decision-makers of the club had asked for a minimum three-year time to identify and procure land before building the necessary infrastructure, before they move out from the existing premises. The owners, a couple of months ago, shot down the plea before they shut the door and cut out the water connections. This is sad, taking into account that the horses need water and food.

And what happens to the FEI World Championship? The Indian riders cannot afford to miss out on the big opportunity to make their mark and ECE too just cannot put its hands up and back out. The onus is on the owners to let the club conduct the prestigious event without throwing a spanner in the wheel.

Most sport associations, shocked with the attitude and approach of the owners, pointed out that one cannot disrupt a sporting activity. The FEI championship should go on as scheduled.

Credits Bangalore Mirror

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