Mumbai: The Center’s directive to the National Sports Federations (NSF) to ensure fix tenure and age limit of its office-bearers is an interference in the working of sports bodies and is not welcomed but the sports bodies too should be willing to introspect their roles, say experts.
Maharashtra Olympic Association Vice-President Ashok Pandit said that while the sports bodies would not tolerate any threat to their autonomy, the government should use diplomacy to convince them of its policies.
“Nobody likes interference, but definitely we have to involve the government although not at the cost of our autonomy. Mr M S Gill (Union Sports Minister) who introduced this debate is against people who are aged 75 in sports bodies, but he himself is over 75,” Pandit said during a panel discussion on ‘IOA’s autonomy & Govt Interference: Desirable and Undesirable’ held as part of the Olympic Week celebrations here last night.
“The Sports Minister should come out with certain policies which is acceptable to all people. The government should involve diplomacy to convince the sports bodies. We have to involve them to discuss and debate how to promote sports in the country,” he said.
Gill had recently asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and its affiliated NSFs to fix the tenure and age limit of their office-bearers, which was viewed by the country’s apex sports body as an unnecessary interference by the government in its affairs.
According to the Maharashtra Olympic Association Vice-President Satish Pradhan, the associations should introspect the circumstances in which the government had handed them the directive.
“We need to understand the circumstance why the (government) interference was necessitated today. For years, sports administrators have clung onto their posts without producing adequate results, which is objected to by the government. Those who are working in the field are not ready for a reality check,” he said.
“The government is willing to spend funds but they expect something else from the sports administrators. Sports should be popularised but not at the cost of freedom of the associations,” he added.
Working President of the Athletics Federation of India, Adille Sumariwala said that while the government had no legal right to interfere in the working of the NSFs, there was a moral obligation on the part of the sports bodies to be transparent and accountable.
“The only reason the IOA is accepted by the International Olympic Association is because we accept the International Olympic Charter which states that the NSF’s must retain their autonomy. Besides, if the terms of corporators MLA’s, and MP’s are not restricted then why should there be a restriction for the associations?,” he asked.
“The government is funding individuals, sportspersons their training and travel expenses but not the associations. If government spends on building infrastructure, it is just fulfilling its duty as I believe funding infrastructure is the job of the government,” he said.
“But associations too are not running the way they should. There is a lot to be done as far as associations are concerned. They should be transparent, accountable, and open to RTI scrutiny. They should follow corporate governance and should be open to public,” he added.
Western Indian Football Association’s general secretary Wali Mohammad said that before pointing a finger towards the associations, the government should provide security to upcoming sportspersons.
“The facilities for sportspersons should be improved otherwise there will be no participation or medals. The sports should be taken to the grassroots. The government should ensure that sportspersons are provided security and have a good future otherwise they’ll vanish,” he said.
Veteran journalist V B Karmarkar, however, said the government’s intention in asking the NSF’s to restrict the tenure of office-bearers was good and driven by the failure of the associations to produce results over the years.
“The sports administrators are shameless. Despite giving such poor results over the years, they have clung on to their posts. So we want them to resign. There is a need for a regulatory body in sports. The intention of the government is good. But it should be firm in its resolve,” he added.