Explained | How will FIFA ban affect Indian football?

Why did the world governing body of sport take this step? Who’s to blame? What lies ahead?

Why did the world governing body of sport take this step? Who’s to blame? What lies ahead?

The story so far: Late on August 15, world football’s governing body FIFA suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF) indefinitely for “undue third-party interference” in the process of finalizing a new constitution and electing officers. The third party in question was the India Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) consisting of Justice (retd.) Anil Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and former Indian football captain Bhaskar Ganguly, formed in May to temporarily take over the leadership of AIFF after the previous formation headed by President Praful Patel exceeded the 12-year tenure mandated by the National Sports Development Code of India. If AIFF’s suspension is not lifted in time, India will lose the rights to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

What constitutes improper interference?

International sports federations such as FIFA view any governance structure in which an unelected body exercises power at a national sports federation such as AIFF as third-party interference. In exceptional cases where such a body – in this case the CoA – assumes responsibility, it must play a transitional, supportive role in accordance with the statutes of the international body. Since the CoA submitted the draft constitution to FIFA on July 13, FIFA has proposed several changes.

The most important of these was the reversal of the CoA’s decision to give players and national associations equal representation (50%) in the electoral college (36 votes each). The Sporting Code requires players in decision-making roles to have at least 25% representation. In a letter dated July 25, FIFA stated: “While we agree that the players’ voice must be heard, we also believe that the importance of the existing members of the AIFF should not be undermined. However, we understand the requirements of the Sports Code of India and recommend AIFF to bring a presence of over 25% of the outstanding players on the Executive Committee as co-opted (nominated) members.”

FIFA did not approve of the CoA’s failure to revise its equality clause ahead of the August 3 Supreme Court hearing. FIFA also criticized the move to elect an interim body for three months just to hold the World Cup, while the constitution is being finalized in parallel. “We understood that the CoA would continue to play a role under the aforementioned interim mandate,” read FIFA’s letter announcing the suspension, concluding that this too constituted “undue interference”. .

How did the CoA react?

In a statement released the day after the suspension, the CoA expressed “surprise and disappointment” that FIFA’s decision had been taken despite detailed discussions between FIFA, the CoA and the Union’s Ministry of Sport. The CoA said it was acceptable to conduct elections with an electoral college composed of just 36 state representatives and give the players representation as nominated members on the Executive Committee, as requested by FIFA.

In a separate letter, the CoA also assured FIFA that the Interim Executive Committee would operate independently and would not be overseen by the former. However, the electoral college published on August 16 – following the announcement of the suspension by FIFA – still had 69 members, including 36 players. It is understood that changes to the draft constitution to bring it in line with FIFA recommendations will require the approval of the Supreme Court.

What is the role of the Union Ministry of Sport?

After largely staying in the background, the Union government told the Supreme Court at the August 17 hearing that it was in talks with FIFA. “Yesterday the government picked it up. We had two meetings with FIFA. There has been some ice breakage,” the government said, asking for more time. The next hearing is scheduled for Monday.

What are the consequences of the blocking?

While the biggest threat is the holding of the U-17 Women’s World Cup, Gokulam Kerala FC’s failure to participate in the ongoing AFC Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan is the first major blow. ATK Mohun Bagan’s participation in the AFC Cup (September 7) is also in doubt, as is India’s scheduled friendlies against Vietnam and Singapore next month. Development funding from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation will be discontinued. Indian clubs cannot sign foreign players and Indian officials are not eligible for international assignments.

Will court intervention set a precedent for other sports in India?

In 2022 alone, table tennis, hockey and judo were placed under court-appointed CoAs for failing to obey the Sports Code. A day after AIFF’s suspension, the Delhi High Court brought the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) citing a CoA, citing the Supreme Court’s order in the AIFF matter. However, the Supreme Court ordered a status quo after the Union government said the International Olympic Committee could view the development as “third party interference”. The next hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Will it change future sports governance models in the country?

Regardless of the turn that each of the above cases takes, there is a fundamental acceptance within the Indian sports governing community that compliance with the Sporting Code is non-negotiable. Whether courts should intervene is controversial. However, it should be noted that both FIFA and FIH (World Hockey Federation) have not objected to court-appointed committees. FIFA only had one problem with the mandate. The FIH, on the other hand, welcomed them, going so far as to say, “A court order is not interference.”

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