Owner of the newest entrant, Odisha FC, in the India Super League, Rohan Sharma has stated that he has been aware of the criticism he would be getting for shifting base from Delhi but he had no options. Sharma also elaborated on the tussle concerning infrastructure with the Delhi government.
After Hyderabad, Odisha became the latest and the last newcomer in this season’s ISL and Delhi Dynamos owner Rohan Sharma has come out to reveal all the problems that led him to take such a drastic step, especially one that has left many fans infuriated.
Sharma has been of the opinion that football and money have to go hand in hand and for him to run the club meant less financial constraints, something that Delhi wasn’t offering him. “I know people will say we're money hungry and we're doing it just for this [money]. They're right in one way because this does make an impact because money does help run a club,” said Sharma, reported Sportstar.
“But at the same time, my end aim remains to develop Indian players and I'm excited to continue this in Odisha. I can't go back to any other city, honestly, then we become like a caravan. I can't afford to do this again. For me, from now on, it is Odisha. My whole focus is on making Odisha FC now,” he added.
Sharma admitted that leaving Delhi was never in his plans, but he could only put up so much with the numerous compromises he was asked to make in the capital city. To further make things easier for him, the Odisha government has given him more facilities than he would have expected.
“We never really wanted to actually move in the beginning. When we bought this club, we believed that we wanted it to be in Delhi. However, the factors changed and we had some major issues. We had a big issue with the infrastructure in New Delhi and needed a revenue structure to help run the club… The Odisha government eventually made a formal approach and we realized the ministry is offering us a lot. They're offering us the stadium and three practice grounds. And when it comes to infrastructure, we would, for the first time, be in control of the stadium,” added Sharma.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium being one of the most popular venues across the world, left very little for Sharma to control. He never got the exclusivity that he was seeking and he went on to reveal that that JLN wasn’t even amongst his first two choices, but Delhi University ground and Ambedkar Stadium.
“The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is a beautiful venue and has great practice grounds, but we had to take permission every year and had to pay crores of rupees for refurbishment and the practice grounds. And I could not put up banners either… we wanted to get the Delhi University Stadium, which would have been a lot easier… the Ambedkar Stadium is the next best option but the refurbishment costs were more than what I'd pay at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for a year and even then it was privately owned. Many local teams use the stadium and we would not get exclusive rights to it.
“I wasn't getting the support I wanted. I did want not to move the club, but I really didn't have an option. The one nice thing about Bhubaneswar is that I feel like they're making an extra effort to make me feel welcome and they're doing whatever they can to grow the sport,” he added.