Giving the game away
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We need professionalism and accountability in sports administration
The crisis in Indian sports has come to a head with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspending the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the body that governs Olympic sport in India. Things might not have come to this if the members of the IOA had been more invested in the development of sports and athletes in the country.
The lack of professionalism is not just a problem for the IOA. The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation has been suspended by the International Boxing Association, and the Archery Association of India (AAI) has been derecognised by the Indian government. The sports ministry also issued a notice to the Athletics Federation of India, questioning its election procedures. In all likelihood, other associations will face similar bans.
Every sports association in India must use this as a chance for introspection. Indian athletes have made significant gains in the past few years, and we cannot squander these gains because of administrative issues. The recent suspensions have foregrounded the lack of accountability and transparency in the governance of sports federations. We cannot make cosmetic changes in the way these organisations are managed, only to face a similar situation a few years down the line. A serious overhaul of the standards of sports governance is necessary.
Parliament must pass a bill that covers all Olympic and international sport. It should ensure that the IOA and other federations adopt higher standards of governance. More athletes must participate in sports administration. There must be age and tenure restrictions on office bearers. For example, the AAI has been administered by the same president for over 40 years. This has allowed the organisation, and Indian archery, to stagnate. The Indian sports code, which sets the age limit for the heads of sports associations at 70 and restricts their tenure to 12 years, should be upheld. Passing a sports bill would be doing a great service to the aspirations of future Indian athletes.
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