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FIFA Suspends All India Football Federation due to Undue Interference from Third Parties, court panel for Olympic body

Suspension from FIFA, instituting COA (committee of administrators) for running Indian Olympic Association and the seeming uncertainty over the Hockey World Cup, everything that can possibly go wrong for Indian sports is going wrong. 

Even as the country is patting on its back over a successful Commonwealth Games performance, it is faced with such turmoil in Indian Sport. 

FIFA’s Decision

Last Monday, FIFA, the world football’s governing body announced that it was suspending the All India Football Federation with immediate effect due to “undue interference by a third-party”, referring to a Supreme Court-appointed committee of administrators to run the day-to-day activities of the AIFF. 

This, FIFA said, was being done because of the flagrant violations of the FIFA statutes or policies. 

The IOA Debacle 

The IOA(Indian Olympic Association), too, seems to be meeting the same fate. The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, on the lines of the Supreme Court, named a yet another COA to run the olympic body. As recent as last month, the International Olympic Committee, had warned IOA of suspension for external interference in its daily affairs and had chided the body’s functioning for not conducting its elections in a timely manner.

After Football, Hockey, Judo and Table Tennis, IOA is the fifth sports federation to be placed under a committee of administrators. Esteemed personalities including former supreme court judge, Justice Anil Dave, and former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi are part of three of the five COAs. 

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This setback could not have come at a worse time. Indian Football is in turmoil at a time when the International Hockey Federation is in India for crisis talks with the Government, Hockey India and the court-appointed COA.

The International Hockey Federation has warned that if their meetings do not turn out to be satisfactory, India could look at their Hockey World Cup hosting rights(which were to be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela in January 2023) being stripped off them. All these sporting bodies are being said to be in dock for their poor governance. 

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, in a letter to Sunando Dhar, the acting secretary general of All India Football Federation, said that they will reconsider the suspension only after the “repeal of COA mandate in full” and only when the AIFF is completely in charge of its day-to-day affairs.

Soon after the decision, the Government swung into action with Tushar Mehta, the solicitor general informing the Supreme Court bench of Justice Chandrachud and A S Bopanna of the development. The court is slated to hear the case on Wednesday. 

An extended ban could have major repercussions for the Indian Football. In her letter, Samoura mentioned how the suspension would affect the Indian Football prospects.

It would mean that the Under-17 Women’s World Cup which was scheduled to be held ion October will “no longer be held as planned”. The AIFF would lose all its FIFA membership rights and privileges until further notice, she said. 

In its statement, however, FIFA expressed possibility of a Women’s Under-17 World Cup. It said, “FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved”. 

Delhi High Court’s Remarks

Meanwhile, a Delhi High Court bench passed a rather scathing judgement on the functioning of the Indian Olympic Association. Alongwith naming a three-member COA who along with three consultants(named by the court) who run the daily affairs of the body, the bench maintained that it is high time the state Olympic associations are done away with.

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According to the Court, the task of the COA is to make sure that the IOA complies with the Sports Code and to facilitate the elections so that the daily affairs be handed over to a democratically-elected body preferably within a period of 4 months. 

The bench also observed that in 95 years of its existence, the IOA has never had a woman president or secretary general. Justice Waziri recorded, “Surely, women do aspire to be in significant positions in the decision making process.

Their presence… will lend to fruition of their valid aspirations. Accordingly, women shall comprise half of the category of sportspersons with voting rights in the General Body as well as in the EC,” 

Wrapping Up

In his concurring opinion, Justice Manmohan expressed his astonishment over the IOA constitution that stipulated that its president could be for life. He remarked, “…one is reminded of the mausoleum of first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, where terracotta soldiers were buried with the purpose of protecting the Emperor in his afterlife”.

These were some strong words coming from the Delhi High Court that expressed its discontent at the process of selection in the IOA. In the nutshell, we hope for a future for India where it has a good showing at the national as well as international games.