It was supposed to be a fiery meeting with the National Sports Federations (NSFs) being opposed to the 2017 National Sports Development Code but at the end of a day-long deliberation with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, the code appears to have been put on the back-burner with the ministry only proposing to form a committee to look into it “at an appropriate time.”
After his first-ever formal meeting with NSFs and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials, Rijiju said the focus was on promotion of sports. “We have already taken a decision that this is a technical issue, an issue related to policy and an expert committee will look into it at an appropriate time, along with the IOA. We will come up with appropriate decisions concerning all issues and all interests of all parties. We discussed our preparation for the Olympics,” Rijiju said.
Both Rijiju and IOA president Narinder Batra also indicated there was no fixed timeline for the same. “All are on board with everything that was discussed today. We are satisfied with today’s discussion and are more focused on Olympics 2020, 2024 and 2028,” Batra added.
Various NSF members present at the meeting made it clear that nothing is likely to be decided before the 2020 Olympics with ministry officials indicating that India’s performance at Tokyo may well decide the future course of action.
“Most of the NSFs are against certain clauses in the Code and they have made their opposition very clear. Nothing will happen in the near future. For now, it is all about Tokyo, if anything has to happen it will only be after the Olympics. Even the expert committee (involving all stakeholders including ministry, NSF and IOA officials) is unlikely to be formed in a hurry,” one of them said.
For and against
A big bone of contention for the NSFs was the role of Batra in the entire process. The IOA president was one of the members of the committee that drafted the code and is a signatory to the same but has been opposing it now along with the NSFs. “How can he be both for and against the code? This needs to be addressed,” many of them were unanimous.
Earlier in the day, Rijiju had already indicated that the ministry was willing to find a middle ground once certain contentious issues in the 2017 code which bars ministers, MPs and MLAs from being part of sports administration were resolved. Majority are against the age (70 years) and tenure caps that would apply to all office-bearers.
“We cannot single out any profession with regards to governance of sport. It is wrong to say businessmen, politicians or officers cannot be a part, then who will govern? It is not about the profession of the person, it is about how suitable one is to run a sports federation. I want a Sports Code which is universally acceptable.”
‘Mediocrity will not be allowed’
Rijiju, however, also sounded a warning to the NSFs on upping their governance standards while also making it clear that the IOA was not immune to the laws of governance. “There is nothing called imposition from the ministry on anybody. The NSFs are run by experienced people, they know what is the level of governance we require. Mediocrity will not be allowed.
“The government intervenes only to ensure India’s participation at international events, de-recognition is due to infighting and non-functioning of a federation. IOA is a body representative of the IOC and has to be part of [the code], there is something called sovereignity, how can anything work outside it?”
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