Fearing IOC suspension, IOA rejects Ministry’s proposed reforms

The Indian Olympic Association has rejected the reforms proposed in the Draft National Sports Code 2017 as it would prevent autonomy and incur IOC's wrath.

"We, the IOA and all our members, outrightly reject the new Draft Sports Code as it interferes in the autonomy of the IOA and its members," IOA general secretary Rajeev Mehta (right) said.   -  PTI

India will incur the International Olympic Committee’s wrath and might even be suspended if it goes ahead with administrative reforms enshrined in the Draft National Sports Code 2017, the IOA has warned, rejecting the proposed document completely.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also expressed surprise with the government’s move to seek feedback on the draft after the Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, on October 11, announced the formation of a committee to look into the contentious provisions such age and tenure cap on officials, which are being opposed by National Sports Federations.

Despite the announcement by Rijiju, the ministry, through its Director (Sports), sent a letter to the IOA on October 24 to send feedback on the Draft National Sports Code latest by November 10.

IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, in turn, sent a note rejecting the changes proposed by the 2017 Draft National Sports Code.

“We, the IOA and all our members, outrightly reject the new Draft Sports Code as it interferes in the autonomy of the IOA and its members. The Sports Code was discussed with GOI MYAS and implemented in 2014 in IOA Statutes which enabled IOA to regain its recognition in 2012,” Mehta said in the feedback letter sent to the ministry.

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“Any further interference in IOA Autonomy will also be taken seriously by IOC and OCA and can once again lead to suspension of membership IOA. We certainly hope that it is not the intention of the Sports Ministry to send Indian contingent to Tokyo in 2020 Olympics under IOC Flag and not the Indian Flag.”

The IOA was suspended by the IOC in December 2012 for government interference and was reinstated 14 months later after assurances on autonomy.

Expressing surprise at the insistence of the ministry to furnish feedback on the Draft Sports Code, he wrote: “We are willing to work together by forming a small committee to take it forward as was agreed on 11.10.2019 and we sincerely hope that MYAS will also stand by what was conveyed to IOA & NSF’s in the 11th October, 2019 meeting.”

The National Sports Code 2011 is currently in force but a new National Sports Code was drafted in 2017.

The draft proposed drastic changes in the 2011 Code, including barring of ministers, members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and government servants from holding office in National Sports Federations (NSF) and the IOA, tenure restrictions and age cap of 70 years. The draft also widened its scope to all office-bearers and board members of the IOA and NSFs.

It also calls on the NSFs to appoint CEOs, Nominee Directors and an Ombudsman. Besides, an eminent athlete is also required to be a part of the NSFs. All NSFs will also have to constitute an athletes commission.

Regarding the age cap of 70 years for its office bearers and other Executive Board members, the IOA argued that even though the norm is in sync with the Olympic Charter, the IOC has not enforced it on all international federations.

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Instead, the IOA has proposed that every NSF be allowed to follow the age limit of its respective international federation, or a uniform age limit of 75 be imposed.

“Considering the longevity of a person’s term at the IOC, the rule of relieving membership at 70 years of age is optimal for IOC. But given the differences in the membership and governance structure between IOC and NOC, that rule of age limitation cannot be implemented in toto for all members on the NOC Board. If there has to be a limitation, 75 years proposed as the age limit,” the IOA said.

“There is no law of the land that limits the age of a person for honorary service in a society or non-profit organisation.”

On the issue of the tenure of office bearers, the IOA proposed three terms for the president, secretary-general and treasurer and no limit for other Executive Board numbers. It also proposed to do away with the provision of cooling-off period for office bearers.

“Stability and continuity in leadership are essential principles in good governance. The said proposal (of the Draft Code) would continually destabilise administration. Two terms is not adequate for any significant contribution or implementation of long term plans. It is proposed to first remove the limitation of cooling period.

“The limitation regarding ‘immediate relative’ on the Board is challenged as there is no law of the land, to the best of our knowledge, that restricts election or appointment to the Board of autonomous organisations based on an individual’s relationship.”

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The draft Code, which states that the IOA and the NSFs “shall be deemed to be a public authority”, exempts the bodies from revealing commercial details under the RTI Act. The IOA has raised doubts over the move and questioned if it contradicts the provisions under the Act.

On the Draft Code seeking to widen the definition of “office bearers” to include vice-president and joint secretaries, the IOA proposed that the same provisions of 2011 Code, which mentioned only president, secretary-general and treasurer, be maintained.

Objecting to another proposal of the Draft Code, Mehta also said that the IOA “would continue affiliation of state and UT (union territory) Olympic Associations as members of NOC with the right to vote and contest its election".

The IOA also said that the Athletes Commission would be in compliance with the guidelines of the IOC and it would oppose government intervention in this matter. It also objected to CAG audit of its accounts as it "does not avail government funding for its administration".

The IOA also rejected the “government’s attempts to regulate the administration of ethical matters, grievance redressal and dispute resolution that are under the purview of IOA now”.

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