Indian sport is in turmoil. With each passing day, reports trickle in about conflicts between players and sports federations, aggravating the already vitiated atmosphere. The electoral process is being violated with impunity, leading to unnecessary litigation, which proves counterproductive in the development of sport in the country.
Active players, many of them Olympians and Asian Games medallists, are expressing concerns on the way the system is being bent to suit individuals, thus compromising the functioning of federations.
After 11 top tennis players of the country, including Somdev Dev-varman, raised a banner of revolt against the ‘unprofessionalism’ of the tennis federation, Athens Olympic Games silver-medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has levelled serious allegations against the functioning of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), which is gearing up for its elections on April 6. The fact that active players like Rathore are raising concerns not only speaks volumes of his courage, but also points a finger at the shortcomings in the system.
Fearing a backlash, players usually don’t raise their voice against the federation. Former India hockey team skipper, Rajpal Singh, paid the price for not falling in line with the federation. But Rathore, a double-trap shooter, might just about escape the wrath of the NRAI, as merit carries a lot of weight in a sport like shooting.
NRAI chief, Raninder Singh, on Tuesday rubbished Rathore’s claims that the elections for life and annual members on Monday were “stage-managed”, saying the NRAI’s functioning is transparent. “We don’t keep things under wraps…we post all the details on the federation’s website,” said Raninder, during an interaction with the media.
It’s given that after Rathore’s outburst it won’t be possible for him to be a part of the federation’s administrative set-up in the future. That much the current lot of officials will ensure, while at the same time handpicking those players who will toe their line.
NRAI advisor, Baljit Singh Sethi, agreed as much when he said that, “I doubt there would be any top player in the federation set-up this time.” With the Sethi family — there are nearly half a dozen of them in the federation holding key posts (see box) — ruling the roost, people like Rathore can only wish they could get a toehold in the body to improve the condition of their ilk.
Following the 2012 London Olympic Games, where India had picked up as many as six medals, it was believed that the sporting scenario would become healthy. Instead, the December 5, 2012 elections of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) exposed the underbelly of Indian sport. Many federations are busy pulling down the sport they govern. And many more will follow suit.