Sport bill – The way forward

Thu, Dec 1, 2011

Social Issues

The national sports development bill is a proposal by the Ministry of Sports to bring more clarity and accountability in the manner with which sports and sportspersons in India are handled. In a country with no dearth of talent and ability, sadly the athletes of almost every sport have faced a real lack of transparency from their respective National Sports Federations. The bill is an effort to keep a better check on the governing bodies of sports. It intends to tackle some important issues like -

  • Resolving the obstacles for RTI (Right to Information) related to various sports federations.
  • Swift solutions for dispute between the athlete and the respective federation.
  • Implementation of stringent anti-doping measures.
  • To form a twenty member independent council that the Government may consult for recognising or debarring the sports federations of India.
  • To create a National Sports Development Council lead by a renowned athlete for overall betterment of the quality of sports in our country.

The bill was recently presented in the parliament which resulted in a confrontation between the cabinet and the sports ministry. Apparently, some of the senior members of the cabinet who are also the respective heads of various NSFs (National Sports Federations) have expressed strong opposition to proposals like setting an age limit of 70 years and having restriction on the tenure of the officials. Our sports ministry has redrafted the bill after rejection in the parliament but it is still facing the disapproval from the federations. These contentious norms of age limit and fixed tenure policies are strictly followed in several top notch nations around the globe. Our sports federations have already suffered in the past due to extended tenure of some officials and it’s high time we keep a check on the serving periods of the office-bearers.

Apart from the cabinet’s disapproval, a few sports bodies have also expressed dislike for the bill. This list includes powerhouses like IOA (Indian Olympics Association) and BCCI (Board for Cricket Control in India). BCCI is an autonomous organization with no accountability to anyone. It doesn’t take any financial grants from the Government and therefore has been adamant towards the RTI clause in the bill. Legally, their argument is fair and can’t be challenged, but it is a case of segregated federations presenting their own cases with the desire of their own profit thereby ignoring the bigger picture. The sports bill intends to bring every NSF (National Sports Federation) under the scrutiny of the RTI – especially BCCI to have a check on the money involved so that another case like the IPL (Indian Premier League) fiasco doesn’t take place. It becomes crucial to have frequent checks on the appropriate usage of money, especially when the sub-standard training facilities and equipments for athletes are said to be due to the lack of funds received.

Another clause in the bill suggests a provision for at least 25% of the posts in the office reserved for former sportspersons. This clause is debatable for the reason that whereas a retired sportsperson would always have more knowledge about the technicality of the sport than a normal person, history has shown us that great players have often failed in the role of administrators. Currently, most of the sports bodies in India don’t have any sportspersons as the office-bearers and hence there has been a disapproval of this aspect of the bill by most of them. A former sportsperson in the administration however may realize the importance of encouragement and appreciation as he better understands the kind of physical and psychological efforts an athlete puts in. A recent example was the paltry prize money of Rs 25000 offered by the sports ministry to Indian Hockey players for winning the prestigious Asian Champions trophy event. Such embarrassing incidents can be avoided by having clarity about the essence of appreciating the glory achieved at such events.

The bill also features a proposal to set up a committee that would help a sportsperson to fight for his case. Several Indian track and field athletes and weightlifters have faced ignominious bans related to the use of illegal drugs after winning medals for the country. Many of these come from no-education backgrounds and blindly take up the diets and medicines that their coaches ask them to follow. More often than not, they have no clue about how to proceed in the quest of at least putting up a case against the ban. A committee for such grievances is one of the progressive features of the bill as there is nothing more heartbreaking than the lack of judicial facilities for an innocent athlete who has to face a life ban due to no fault of his own.

Amidst all the confusions, conflicts and several differences of opinion, it’s pretty hard to shed the prejudices and a lot easier to stick to them. The bill won’t change the sorry state of Olympic sports in our country in a jiffy, but some of the aspects of the bill are indeed progressive. Some of these issues that the bill wants to tackle, like the anti-doping measures are really critical as we have been specifically warned by the International Olympics Committee, time and again. No one knows whether the bill would be successful or whether it will be implemented at all, but the essence lies in realizing the importance of doing justice to each athlete representing the nation and in endorsing a sports culture in the country.

Sandeep Sharma

MBA Batch of 2013

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