Sudden death: On running sports bodies and judicial intervention

The suspension of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) by world governing body FIFA represents a depressing low in the annals of Indian sporting history. The collective euphoria over the nation’s fine performance at the Commonwealth Games was yet to fully die down when FIFA, late on Monday, wielded the sledgehammer citing “undue interference by a third party”. The third party in question was the Supreme Court of India-nominated Committee of Administrators (CoA), formed in May to temporarily assume charge of AIFF and finalise a new constitution after the previous executive committee was deemed to have overstayed its tenure. The bone of contention was CoA’s decision to give players 50% representation — with voting rights — in the new AIFF Executive Committee, on a par with State associations. FIFA’s recommendation was 25% and it duly suspended AIFF, much to the chagrin of the CoA, which on Tuesday said that a middle ground was close to being found. The Court has now tasked the Union Government to engage with FIFA to break the logjam so that India does not suffer the ignominy of losing the hosting rights to the U-17 Women’s World Cup in October. In addition, India’s international friendlies, participation of its clubs in international competitions — Gokulam Kerala FC in the AFC Women’s Club Championship and ATK Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup — and developmental funds from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation are all under threat.

It may be argued that the CoA was overzealous in what prima facie appeared a good-faith attempt to make players equal stakeholders in AIFF. But what is undeniable is the role of the erstwhile AIFF establishment, led by president Praful Patel, in triggering the crisis by holding on to power well past the 12-year tenure sanctioned by the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011. Violation of norms concerning membership, age-limits and tenures as prescribed in the Sports Code is rampant in Indian sports; table tennis, hockey and judo have all been placed under court-appointed administrators in 2022. On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court brought the Indian Olympic Association under a CoA, relying on the Supreme Court order in the AIFF matter. If one has to knock on the doors of the higher judiciary to enforce a government-mandated code adopted for the overall benefit and health of the sport, it points to a sorry state of affairs. At a time when India is diversifying its sporting culture and producing newer champions, it can ill-afford administrators who bring the very game they claim to be custodians of into disrepute.

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 11:40:35 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/sudden-death-the-hindu-editorial-on-running-sports-bodies-and-judicial-intervention/article65779709.ece