Sport by commission: The Tribune India

Vinayak Padmadeo

Even though the crisis over hosting the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India has been averted, problems are brewing for another Indian sports federation over its international federation. Just 10 days ago, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) cleared all doubts over India’s hosting rights for the World Cup, which will be held early next year. But now the FIH has put the brakes on the work after seeing the draft constitution submitted by the Committee of Trustees (CoA) which runs Hockey India (HI).

FIH CEO Thierry Weil wrote a scathing email to the three members of HI’s CoA, accusing them of abusing their trust – in other words, an overreach that now threatens to ball snow in another embarrassment. Weil has previously questioned the World Cup draw ceremony, which was due to take place on September 8.

The removal of Praful Patel from the presidency of the AIFF in May was the starting point of the crisis. File photo

“I have started looking at the attached draft, and I must admit I am surprised to see a number of changes you have made to the new constitution. I don’t know how we should take this, given that you have made a clear commitment to only make changes on the 3 points mentioned in the High Court decision,” Well said in his letter.

“It is clearly, fail to use (sic) the trust we placed in you at the meeting we had in Delhi which led to a joint press statement and the planning of the draw for the 8th September which most likely needs to be cancelled. I don’t know if all the changes you have made are in line with Indian sports code? It is urgent to discuss,” he added.

The High Court judgment

In May this year, the Delhi High Court removed the executive of HI from office, saying that certain posts, including that of president for life – which had been “used” by the former president of the Olympic Association (IOA), Narinder Batra, to challenge the IOA and FIH elections – were unconstitutional. Batra has also been removed. The voting rights granted to HI’s CEO, Elena Norman, were also removed. Subsequently, a CoA was appointed to lead HI until new elections were held.

The CoA – which included (retired) Judge Anil R Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and former India captain Zafar Iqbal – were asked to align HI’s constitution with the National Sport Development Code of India and to prepare the electoral college for elections.

However, it is understood that the CoA went beyond the scope of the court’s decision which only asked it to “assist in the preparation and adoption of the Constitution of R2 in accordance with the Sporting Code and to court decisions”.

It appears that some recommendations of the Lodha Committee – formed by the Supreme Court to reform the operation of the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) – have been included in HI’s draft constitution. Incidentally, this was done by the CoAs of Archery Association of India (AAI) and Football Federation of India (AIFF). Quraishi was also part of their CoA.

The Lodha Committee had introduced a number of changes in the functioning of the BCCI: one state, one vote; limit the terms of office of officers; excluding politicians and officials from the executive committee are some of the most important.

COA on scope

However, the inclusion of such terms in the constitutions of other national sports federations – and other additions – is clearly considered excessive by the Supreme Court of India, as in the case of the AAI.

In their May 1, 2019 order, Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi observed: “…unquestionably, the additional amendments incorporated by the Administrator resulted in the denial of the right to represent and contest IAA elections for members existing.

The amended constitution had prohibited the state and IAA member associations from electing a public official as a member of the board. It also justified the election of archers to the executive and ordered that at least one of the two vice-presidents “be a female archer”, and one of two co-secretaries and three executive members “be an archer. “. Additionally, he ordered that 33% of the executive committee “be archers.”

However, the National Sports Development Code of India does not prohibit civil servants from holding office in a sports federation. It also does not extend voting rights to associate members, including railways and services. The May 1, 2019 ordinance nullified the 2018 IAA election which was held in accordance with the “Quraishi constitution”, and which had done much to help the ex-officer’s elevation. IAS BVP Rao as new IAA President.

The FIFA Ban

Now FIFA’s AIFF ban was lifted on Friday. Football’s world governing body FIFA had opposed the new draft constitution which limited the voting rights of state associations – one vote to a state and one vote to a prominent footballer in the state – and wanted an immediate transfer of day-to-day management. of the association of the CoA with the AIFF. FIFA banned the AIFF due to “third-party interference” and announced that the country would not host the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

FIFA’s charter clearly states that member nations must “manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third party”, and the member nation will also be reprimanded “even if the influence of a third was not the fault of the Member concerned”.

Fearing embarrassment, the Ministry of Sports filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court, raising several objections to the new draft constitution prepared by the CoA.

Following this, the Supreme Court amended its earlier order and upheld all of FIFA’s objections. FIFA revoked the ban and the AIFF was reinstated as a full member, paving the way for India to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

where they go wrong

After the archery association case, the AIFF was the second case in which the CoA had all of its recommendations overturned by the court that appointed it in the first place.

So where is the fault? As far as cases are concerned, most recommendations such as age and occupancy limits are intended to reinforce the principle of good governance and are generally not opposed.

But a few of the recommendations open a Pandora’s box, such as banning civil servants or politicians from running for office in a sports association. In a democratic organization, only convicted persons can be excluded from elections. Also, the NSDCI has no such clause.

Then there’s the contentious issue of ensuring a 2/3 majority if an incumbent runs for re-election as president. Critics of this clause point out that even if someone wins by a single vote, the election should stand.

power of money

Sometimes a country’s stature and association in world sport and financial might also play a role in a federation attracting a ban or reprieve. The cases of AIFF and HI are prime examples of global bodies applying their clauses arbitrarily. FIFA, which has cash reserves of over $4 billion, has banned AIFF as India is a minor player in football and FIFA derives almost no revenue from India.

The FIH, on the other hand, although it fired a new salvo at HI, did not implement its clauses in letter and spirit as a large part of its income comes from Indian sponsors. Odisha Tourism is one of the main sponsors of FIH. The state is also hosting its second consecutive World Cup. It is spending over Rs 1000 crore for the 2023 event, which will be held in Rourkela and Bhubaneswar.

If the FIH applies its clause which states that its member “shall manage its affairs autonomously and without interference from bodies outside the Olympic Movement”, then the appointment of a CoA to lead HI is clearly an offence. However, FIH turned a blind eye as India is a major source of income for it. Similarly, the International Cricket Council did not bat an eyelid even though a CoA ran BCCI for 33 months – India’s contribution to ICC’s revenue is gigantic. This is how the game is played in world sports.

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