Czars on warpath

The sports ministry’s decision imposing a limit on the terms of office-bearers of National Sports Federations (NSF) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has stirred a hornet’s nest with the sports bodies forging a united front to fight it out. The IOA and its constituents have received a boost in their battle with the International Olympic Committee stating that the ministry’s order violated the Olympic Charter and would invite punishment from the apex body.

The communication, no doubt, must be seen as concerted action of a powerful international caucus of sporting czars who have protected each other’s interests for long. The sports associations in the country have been the playground of politicians and bureaucrats who have carried on for years as if the final whistle did not apply to them. Many of them have been holding on to the chairs for decades only because of the power and perks that come with it. Accountability has been largely unheard of in their ranks, with many treating the associations as their personal fiefdoms. The ministry’s decision was intended to curtail their stay and infuse much-needed fresh blood into sports bodies, but it may not happen without a prolonged fight.

The NSFs and the IOA, their parent body, have staunchly resisted every move in the past to rein them in, using the autonomy clause provided to them under the Olympic Charter as a protective shield. Sports Minister M S Gill, ever since he took over two years ego, has been a thorn in their flesh, his attempts to make them accountable causing severe heartburns. Bringing the NSFs under the Right To Information Act and introducing an annual recognition procedure were the first steps, forcing the IOA to say no to any financial assistance from the government. The latest move, intended to bring in “transparent and professional management of Indian sports,” has hurt them even more, sending them scurrying towards the Olympic Charter once again.

The IOC communication may have cast a safety net over the sports bosses for the time being, but Gill has decided to take up the issue with the IOC, citing ground realities in India. If the Olympic Charter is meant to promote sport rather than the self-interests of some bigoted individuals, the IOC will definitely see reason in India’s action. As things stand now, NSFs and IOA may have the upper hand but the game, certainly, is far from over.

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