New Delhi: Facing flak for the athletes' lack of access to venues of last year's Commonwealth Games, Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Wednesday declared the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as the hub of football in the country allowing the federation to use it for 40 days every year.

Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Wednesday signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in the presence of Maken and AIFF President Praful Patel, wherein the football federation will be allowed to use the stadium, including the main pitch for a period of 40 days per year.

The federation has also been given the permission to use the outside practice ground of the stadium free of cost for 50 days in a year along with other necessary facilities available in the stadium for the smooth conduct of national and international football tournaments.

AIFF, on its part, would have to repair/re-lay the turf on the main pitch at the stadium at its own cost. It will also hold SAFF football tournament in December 2011, Nehru Cup football tournament 2012, international matches, domestic tournaments and for the remaining period out of 40 days, it will hold coaching camps and clinics.

The agreement will be valid for a year and can be extended further for two years on the basis of review and mutual understanding.

After the signing of the agreement, Patel requested the Minister to explore the possibility of providing residential accommodation to AIFF so that it can also set up a National Football Academy here.

Patel also urged Maken to ensure that the stadium is used mainly for football and not for other purposes.

"With the signing of an agreement today, the foundation has been laid for developing Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into Hub of the Football," said Maken.

He also added that the installation of retractable seats can also be explored by SAI to enhance the seating capacity of the stadium.

"We will ensure the conversion of the Stadium into mecca of football in the days to come," Maken said.

Patel described the agreement as an important step to improve the standard of football in the country by providing best sporting infrastructure.

"This agreement can be regarded as the beginning of a new era. It will go long way in improving the ranking of the game, which slipped considerably in the last few years because of the lack of availability of good sporting infrastructure at every level," said the minister for Heavy Industries.

Meanwhile, Maken, who announced the establishment of National Institute of Sports Science and Medicine (NISSM) at the JN Stadium at a cost of Rs 200 crore a couple of days ago, said that this institute will be the best in the world.

(Agencies)