In a Cabinet packed with Ministers associated with sports, the Bill was destined to face stiff resistance

Union Minister for Sports Ajay Maken's pet National Sports Development Bill, aimed at regulating national sports bodies, failed to pass muster at the recent Union Cabinet meeting. An overwhelming number of Ministers vehemently opposed the Bill that sought to bring the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under the Right to Information Act (RTI), effecting World Anti Doping Agency ( WADA) norms on cricketers, and limiting the tenure of administrators..

In a Cabinet packed with Ministers such as Sharad Pawar, also the president of the ICC; Vilasrao Deshmkuh, president of the Mumbai Cricket Association; Farooq Abdullah, president the J&K Cricket association, C.P. Joshi, president of Rajasthan Cricket Association; and Praful Patel, president of the All-India Football Federation, the Bill was destined to face stiff resistance in its present format.

The BCCI's contention is that it is an autonomous body and does not depend on government support or grants, and therefore cannot be brought under the RTI scrutiny. But Mr. Maken's argument is that the BCCI enjoys tax breaks, waiver of customs duty for imports and does not pay entertainment tax for cricket extravaganzas like the IPL,and since it fields an India team under the India banner, the public needs to know the source of its funds, expenditure and even its mode of selection. This is not forgetting the alleged financial mismanagement of the IPL, which has not gone down well with the government.

‘Unfeasible'

All said and done, the matter of bringing cricketers under WADA seems far-fetched. WADA ‘s controversial ‘whereabout clause' stipulating that players have to give prior intimation of their whereabouts three months in advance for a random dope test, is simply not feasible. Even, ATP and WTA, which govern the men's and women's international tennis meets around the world, have slammed WADA on that score.

However, what is more welcome is curtailing the tenure of officials at the helm of national sports federations. Mr. Maken suggested the retirement age of 70, but why not 65?. For too long, Indian sports bodies have been administered by persons well past 60 years who have enjoyed several terms in office. What is surprising is that even this suggestion is being met with opposition.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah countered it with a “if I am good enough to be a Union Cabinet Minister at 74, why can't I head a sports body?” One is tempted to ask him what innovative ideas he has come up with to raise the standard of J&K sports, one of the weakest cricketing teams in the country. Why not make room for young blood?

Mr. Maken has since been asked to redraft the Bill. Let's hope he comes out with a draft that will convince the sceptics. But for that, he needs to make the Bill a lot more flexible and realistic and not a draconian one that will allow the government to lord it over the sports arena.

RELATED NEWS

Match PointJanuary 13, 2011