Indian sporting federations: Caught between a rock and a hard place
Imagine not seeing the Tricolour fluttering majestically and not standing still to hum the Jana Gana Mana (and not battling that tear) just about a year ago, when Neeraj Chopra threw that javelin 87.58 metres for that golden feat in Tokyo!
That beautiful timeline might not have happened if the sporting federation had been banned. Just ask our friends, the Russians. Their men’s team won gold and silver in the 100-metre backstroke swimming event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but weren’t allowed to compete under their country’s flag because the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended by its parent body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), for widespread doping.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), on Tuesday, suspended its Indian offspring – the All India Football Federation (AIFF) – for “third-party interference”, putting the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October in India, in jeopardy. Another sporting federation – the Indian Olympic Association – could be next after the Delhi High Court appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) on Tuesday to run the show and bring in changes into its constitution, based on the 2011 National Sports Code (NSC).
Yet another one, Hockey India, has a lifeline till October 9 to conduct elections. That was agreed upon by its parent body the Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH) and, yes, another CoA, they made a joint statement on Wednesday.
Interestingly, as a CoA is being constituted for IOA, another CoA’s conduct (it was appointed by the Supreme Court on May 19, 2022 to manage affairs of AIFF) was criticised by FIFA.
It all started when the apex court, on May 18, relieved the then president of the AIFF, former aviation minister Praful Patel, and his executive committee, of their duties and formed a CoA, consisting of former SC judge Anil R Dave, former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, and former India football captain Bhaskar Ganguly. The SC stated that, under the NSC rules, Patel had completed his maximum term of 12 years at the helm and should relinquish office.
As part of their mandate, the CoA went about making changes into the AIFF constitution – one of them being appointing an electoral college consisting of 36 players (24 male and 12 female) of eminence and one member each from the 36 football federations across the country for conducting elections to run the body.
While FIFA did agree to having 18 players in the college, it later suspended its Indian arm, making it clear that the world body has a red card for anyone else running the Beautiful Game. All footballing activities of any merit, as a result, stand suspended in the country. Indian footballers cannot participate in any international tournament, no international transfers of players – in and out of India – will be allowed. The SC hearing in the case slated for Wednesday was adjourned till August 22.
Meanwhile, the IOA is also staring at another suspension, within a span of 10 years (it was barred in December 2012 for not following the Olympic Charter during election process) after the IOC warned the Indian body on July 20 to conduct its quadrennial elections “within weeks”, failing which “suspension” could be one of the options. The Delhi HC-appointed CoA, which has two members who are also part of the SC-appointed one for AIFF, has its task cut out.
Recent Indian sporting history, apart from the sportsperson bringing glory, has been mired with controversy, especially on the administrative front.
The Indian Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) was suspended in 2012 by its parent body – International Amateur Boxing Federation (AIBF) – for “manipulation of elections”. Later, in 2013, the body was dissolved and Boxing India (BI) came into being in 2014. It was later recognised by the world body. This July, due to infighting, the AIBF suspended BI and the sport in India is currently run by an ad-hoc body. The defunct AIBA has recently, along with the ad-hoc body, requested the AIBF recognise it.
In 2019, the World Archery Federation suspended India after two bodies were elected to run the game in the country. In early 2020, the suspension was lifted with conditions after completion of elections for the Archery Association of India.
During tense moments, India switches on to cricket for respite. But here, too, a CoA was put in place due to concerns over the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) functioning.
This was brought on by a match-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League in 2013. Two teams, the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, were suspended for two years. There was yearning for change, for clean-up.
The SC got into action, and appointed a CoA after a committee headed by former SC Judge RM Lodha had given its recommendations to run the BCCI. The CoA, comprising of ex-comptroller and auditor general of India Vinod Rai, former Indian women’s cricket captain Diana Edulji, historian Ramachadran Guha and Vikram Limaye, then chief executive officer and managing director of IDFC, had to implement the suggestions of the Justice Lodha Committee.
This, after the SC terminated the stint of the then BCCI president and Union Minister Anurag Thakur for not implementing the changes.
The 33-month stint of the Rai-led CoA came to an end in 2019 with the BCCI conducting successful elections, where Saurav Ganguly was elected the president and Union Home Minister and former Gujarat Cricket Association president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah taking over as the secretary.
When the dust settled, Arun Dhumal, brother of Anurag was elected to run the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. Avishek Dalmiya – son of former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya – was elected as secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal and Rupa Gurunath – daughter of former BCCI president N Srinivasan – took over as the president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
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