The football enthusiasts have requested the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) to minimize the artificial turf football ground entry fee.

BFF charges Nu 3,500, which includes the referee fee for every match played at the artificial turf ground.

The amount, members of the Tsirang Sports Associating say, is exorbitantly high and beyond the affordability of players.

The general secretary of the association, Wangchuk, said that the high entry fee is discouraging footballers in Tsirang and other nearby dzongkhags. “BFF could consider reducing the entry fee at least by half.”

He said that after the establishment of the artificial turf, the number of football tournaments being organized has drastically declined. “People are interested but they can’t afford the fee.”

He said most of the footballers in Tsirang are villagers. “Our rural people can’t afford to pay Nu 3,500 for every match,” he said.

The issue was discussed during the 2nd dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) session. The DT endorsed the need to demand ownership of the ground from BFF. DT members claimed BFF did not respond.

The DT discussed the issue again during the 5th session conducted on March 20.

One of the main reasons for demanding ownership of the ground, according to DT members, is because the ground is surrounded by garbage and its amenities are without proper care.

DT deputy chairman, Beda Moni Chamlagai, said that BFF takes care of just the artificial turf pitch.

Since the ownership of the ground is with BFF, the dzongkhag is not able to do much. “The pavilion, toilet and surrounding are dirty. It needs care. BFF isn’t doing anything right now.”

Beda Moni Chamlagai said if BFF can’t transfer ownership of ground to the dzongkhag, the federation should at least provide some fund so that a person could be appointed to take care of the ground and its surrounding.

“If BFF transfers ownership to the dzongkhag, we could minimize the fee as well, which will encourage more players,” he said.

Wangchuk said he raised the issue at the 3rd annual general meeting of the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) as well.

He told the DT members that there he was told that the ownership couldn’t be transferred because it is constructed with fund from FIFA, unlike Mongar and Phuentsholing artificial turf, which are funded by BOC.

“Mongar and Phuentsholing artificial turfs are handed over to the dzongkhags after the ground is complete,” he said.

Meanwhile, BFF’s media focal person, Phuntsho Wangdi, said the land on which the artificial turf stands is already on lease and there is no question of transferring ownership.

“Moreover we’ve not heard anything from the DT about the issue,” he said.

He said the entry fee is collected so that the amount could be used to replace the whole turf after eight years. “If the dzongkhag officially communicates with the federation, there could be some room for negotiations for the entry fee.”

Meanwhile, BFF does not charge an entry fee for women teams and students while using the artificial turf ground.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang