Eleven cities, 12 stadiums including a brand-new facility in Navi Mumbai, an estimated budget of Rs 318.65 crore, pandemic insurance, a promise to increase participation in youth leagues by 10-fold and a testimony from England and Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi.
In its bid to host the 2027 Asian Cup, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has provided granular details of the country’s ambitious plan to host the tournament in its 177-page bid book, which was released by the continental body on Monday.
India’s record in the Asian Cup has been abysmal. The national team has qualified just four times, and twice in the last three decades. Both times, in 2011 and 2019, the team failed to go beyond the group stage. India is in contention to qualify for the 2023 edition. The winning bid for the 2027 Asian Cup will be announced in 2021 and hosts are guaranteed participation in the tournament.
The AIFF has proposed Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai (two venues, DY Patil and yet-to-be-constructed Panvel-Khargar Stadium), New Delhi, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram as the potential host cities for the 24-nation championship. Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium has been recommended to host the final, while Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, New Delhi and Navi Mumbai have been identified as potential venues for the two semi-finals.
India is in contention to host the AFC Cup along with three other countries – Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. While Qatar, like India, has proposed to host matches in 12 stadiums, Iran has put forward 14 stadiums in 9 cities and Saudi Arabia has chosen 10 stadiums, including back-up venues.
While Saudi Arabia and Iran have not provided their total estimated budget, Qatar’s is a little more than three times India’s – nearly $137 million compared to India’s $44 million.
Nearly half of India’s estimated budget has been allocated to infrastructure development and safety and security of the tournament. The AIFF has projected that upgrading stadiums and training facilities will cost Rs 92.20 crore. Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex, the federation said, would require the most upgradation, worth nearly Rs 37 crore, followed by Hyderabad’s GMC Balayogi Stadium (approximately Rs 30 crore). The construction of the 40,000-seater Panvel-Khargar Stadium in Navi Mumbai is expected to be complete in 2026.
Safety and security have been estimated to cost Rs 55 crore while the Local Organising Committee’s workforce budget is projected to be Rs 57 crore. The bid book stated that the ‘host stages and the AIFF aim to generate USD 100 million from domestic and international tourism associated with the tournament’. The AIFF also expects to generate approximately Rs 76 crore through ticket revenues, with the cheapest ticket likely to cost Rs 500.
The AIFF said the tentative budget included operating cost to host the 2026 Asian Under-23 Championship, which will be a preparatory tournament for the eventual host of the 2027 Asian Cup.
Although it wasn’t made clear who will foot the bill for the tournament, the AIFF claimed its bid has ‘the full, unwavering support of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, the National Government and the top state leadership.’ “It is a matter of national importance for which both central and state government are committed to setting their political differences aside to combine their efforts and showcase India to world,” the bid document stated.
Last week, a parliamentary committee recommended, too, that India should host more international events. In its bid book, the AIFF has cited the country’s experience of hosting international events and the ‘successful delivery of major football tournaments’, including the 2017 Under-17 World Cup.
The AIFF has quoted Hudson-Odoi, who was part of the U-17 World Cup-winning England team, in its bid book as saying that ‘playing in India is unreal.’
Hosting the Asian Cup, the federation said, was ‘closely aligned with our mission to further promote mass participation and develop our football teams.’ The AIFF also said they will conduct events similar to the Mission XI Million programme, held prior to the 2017 under-17 World Cup, to increase youth participation.
The proposed venues:
1. EKA Arena (Transtadia), Ahmedabad: The venue has been proposed to host matches up to the quarterfinals. “Given the stadium is regularly used to host events and recently built with state-of-the-art technologies, not much expenditure can be expected to be incurred on the stadium,” the bid book stated.
2. Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar: The AIFF said it did not expect any major expenses on stadium renovation but has budgeted approximately Rs 7 crore for minor works. The venue has been shortlisted for Group Stage, Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches.
3. Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati: Like Bhubaneswar, the AIFF said minor renovation worth roughly Rs 7 crore would be needed to get the stadium ready for the tournament. It will also host matches up to the quarterfinals.
4. Nehru Stadium, Goa: The venue would host matches up to the Round-of-16 stage if India gets the tournament, the AIFF said. It will require ‘certain renovations’, which may cost up to Rs 10 crore.
5. GMC Balayogi Stadium, Hyderabad: To make the stadium compliant with the regulations for the Asian Cup, renovations amounting to approximately Rs 30 crore will be required at the stadium, which is home to ISL side Hyderabad FC. The stadium would host matches up to the quarterfinals.
6. Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata: The recently-renovated stadium would need a few touch-ups, which would cost up to Rs 10 crore. Kolkata has been identified as one of the tournament headquarters – Delhi being another one – and the iconic Salt Lake Stadium has been proposed to host matches in the group stage, Round of 16, quarterfinals and the final.
7. Nehru Stadium, Kochi: Like the Salt Lake venue, this stadium, too, was renovated for the U-17 World Cup three years ago. The AIFF said additional work costing roughly Rs 10 crore might be required at the venue for ‘complete compliance’ with the rules. It has been chosen to host Group Stage, Round of 16 and a semi-final for the tournament.
8. DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai: The stadium will not require a lot of work for hosting the Asian Cup matches and would be ‘suitable’ to host Group Stage, Round of 16 and a semi-final of the tournament, the AIFF said.
9. Panvel-Khargar Stadium, Navi Mumbai: The new facility, which will have four training sites and a 40,000-seater stadium, is likely to be ready by early 2026, the AIFF said, and will ‘serve as one of the biggest legacies’. “It may also be noted that DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai and this new stadium would be within half-an-hour drive of each other providing an opportunity for fans to witness world-class football at both the venues on the same day as per the match schedule,” the bid book stated.
10. JLN, New Delhi: The stadium may require minor upgrades costing up to Rs 5 crore, the AIFF said, and would be ‘ideally suited for hosting the first match (opening ceremony), R16, QF or even the semi-final match for the tournament.’
11. Greenfields International Stadium, Thiruvananthapuram: The recently-built venue will not require any major changes and has been proposed to host matches in the Group Stage, Round of 16 and Semifinals.
12. Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune: The venue will require maximum upgradation, which is estimated to cost roughly Rs 37 crore. It has been picked to host matches up to the Round of 16 stages.