Amidst growing fears of football’s world governing body, FIFA, imposing a ban on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) stripping the country of hosting rights of next year’s World Cup, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has threatened to suspend India due to governance-related issues.
In a letter, dated July 20, to all executive council members of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the IOC has said it will be ‘forced’ to suspend the national body should it fail to organise its ‘quadrennial elections within the coming weeks’. The IOA’s elections were originally scheduled to be held in December last year.
However, they have been kept in abeyance due to an ongoing court case, in which it is accused of violating provisions of the National Sports Code. While this will not have a bearing on India’s participation in the Commonwealth Games, which begin on July 28, a suspension can impact the financial aid the federation and athletes receive from the IOC. Additionally, until the sanctions are lifted, India’s athletes will not be allowed to compete under the tricolour in Olympic events.
The letter – signed by Director of Olympic solidarity and National Olympic Committee Relations, James MacLeod, and Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia, Husain Al-Musallam – stated: “Should the IOA fail to fulfill its obligations and be unable to organise its quadrennial elections properly within the coming weeks, the IOC will, unfortunately, have no other option but to consider appropriate protective measures vis-à-vis the IOA, including a suspension…”
The IOC’s threat comes at a time when the government acknowledged on Thursday that the country could be suspended from international football. The AIFF is currently being run by a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the Supreme Court due to a logjam in drafting AIFF’s constitution and holding elections. The move could amount to third-party interference in the functioning of the AIFF, which would violate FIFA’s rules and thus lead to suspension.
FIFA has given the AIFF a deadline of July 31 to finalise its constitution and mid-September to hold elections. “In the international world, nobody is immune to ban… FIFA has banned several prominent countries in the past due to issues with their constitution and various other governance matters, including not having democratically elected bodies,” sports ministry’s joint secretary LS Singh said during the hearing, which got adjourned to July 28.
“We are very much apprehensive and we would not like to see the prestige of our country put to any untoward position.” In May, the Delhi High Court suspended Hockey India’s executive committee for not aligning its constitution with the National Sports Code and appointed CoA to run its affairs.
Moreover, it struck down the position of Hockey India’s life president and instructed veteran sports administrator Narinder Batra to step down as the president of the IOA, given that his election to the post was on the basis of his position as Hockey India’s life president. The IOC’s letter comes days after Batra officially resigned as the IOA president.
ALSO READ: Asia Cup moved to the UAE
In its communication, the Olympic body expressed ‘great concern’ over the situation and noted the ‘multiple legal proceedings… which have caused delays and created unnecessary complications so far.’ It has urged the IOA officials to ‘review and solve this situation once and for all and confirm the date of IOA quadrennial elections without any further delay’ to avoid suspension.
If IOC goes ahead and bans India, it will be the second time in a decade that such an action would have been taken against the country. In December 2012, the Olympic body suspended the IOA for similar reasons – failure to comply with IOC rules in the election process – and it led to one of the most embarrassing situations in the country’s Olympic history.