Players' rights in focus

Sports Ombudsman a key part of proposed Bill

CSI, a body established with the aim of curing the country’s sports administration of its maladies, endured a period of doubts, questions and scepticism in its first year but the sports bill – drafted by the sports ministry – has a chance to act as a tool in the body’s journey towards its goal in the coming year.

Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal, the chairman of the panel set up by the ministry to examine suggestions on the bill, was a key speaker at the CSI sports seminar in Mysore, and he spoke forcefully in favour of the bill while stressing that a player’s rights needed to be protected.

Mudgal, who has been a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland since 2002, said the bill gave an opportunity for the player to air his grievances, through the creation of a Sports Ombudsman. “A player can lodge his complaint to the National Sports Federation and if it is not resolved within ten days, he can approach the ombudsman for a solution,” he said.

Mudgal described the response to the bill as amazing but said the International Olympic Committee’s opposition wasn’t encouraging. “We have done a study of such acts worldwide and there are far more draconian measures in other countries. Even in the United States, there are laws governing sport. If the international body opposes it, we should take it as an intrusion into our sovereignty and fight it out,” he said.

Fine-tune the bill

Suggestions to fine-tune the bill include one on pension for sportspersons who have won national awards, while the need to expand the players’ rights too was highlighted, with one of the suggestions being that the officials accompanying the athletes should stay in the same hotel as that of the athletes.

“The bill proposes 25 percent reservation for sportspersons in the executive bodies of the National Sports Federation and this has also caused great heartburn among the officials,” he said.

Mudgal was clear in his mind that sports betting in the country need to be legalised. “It is strange that betting on horse racing is legal while it is illegal in other sports. The government is losing a lot of money by not legalising it. The revenue generated through betting on an India-Pakistan match itself would be enough to fund several other sports for a few years,” he observed.

BVP Rao, convenor of CSI, said after working on creating awareness about the need to clean up the sports system in its first year, the organisation was ready for the next step.

“It will be a mix of both in the now. We will organise workshops in leadership while spreading our message in the coming year. You can’t achieve all your goals in one day. There will be struggles initially but slowly, it will become a big movement,” he said.

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