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Bill not consistent with statutes of international bodies

The ministry of sports no doubt has good intentions to significantly improve the overall standard of sports in India, but going all out to enact a law called ‘Sports Bill 2011’ in its present form is not the best method.

other Updated: Nov 28, 2011 01:50 IST
shaji prabhakaran

The ministry of sports no doubt has good intentions to significantly improve the overall standard of sports in India, but going all out to enact a law called ‘Sports Bill 2011’ in its present form is not the best method. There are many alternative ways through which the ministry can bring corporate governance, transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the National Sports Federations and the Indian Olympic Association.

The best method the ministry should have adopted, and it can still do that, is introducing a self-regulatory mechanism for NSFs. It should be devised involving eminent business leaders, internationally recognised sports administrators, management experts, etc. Then, after consultations with the sports bodies, the ministry and the federation should sign an agreement that within a stipulated timeframe each NSF will adopt the mechanism or the ministry will de-recognise it. This will make the NSFs also feel empowered because the functioning of sports bodies is not only about the top leadership, but also includes a team of professionals who play a crucial role in each aspect.

After all, there are a few NSFs like the All India Football Federation, who function professionally. A few NSFs have themselves adopted a professional governance structure, and with RTI, there is absolute transparency. But one also needs to understand that equating the performances/medals at international level with the quality of functioning of NSFs in the Indian context is not fair. There is a huge gap to cover as far as sports culture is concerned, when compared to http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/28-11-pg20b.jpgadvanced sports nations. Here, it should be a priority for the sports ministry to work closely with the HRD ministry to ensure sports becomes an integral part of education. The problem is that sports in India is seen only in terms of high performance, and has not been made a part of the overall well-being of every citizen. That's where our school set-up needs to be changed, to make sure each child has an opportunity for holistic development with sports playing a long-term role. There should be a law for ‘Right to Play’.

The draft Sports Bill is not consistent with standard statutes of many international sports federations. Limiting the tenure of office-bearers not only discourages an official who was successful in his/her tenure and deserves to continue for the good of that sport but also goes against the norms of ISFs. The policy should be supportive and encouraging. A champion athlete can never be told to limit his medal-winning run to a certain number of years. Similarly, a champion sports administrator should have the right to continue for unlimited terms.

It is wrong to think that by enacting the Bill corporate support for sport in India will change significantly. That is determined by market forces; the ministry should ensure sports as an industry can thrive and mature in the country. In India, most NSFs operate in very difficult conditions and many times it is their presidents who bail them out of heavy financial burdens with significant personal contributions.

The author is a FIFA development officer. The comments are his personal views

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