AFI postpones elections, office bearers’ term extended during online meeting

The Athletics Federation of India on Saturday deferred its elections and extended the term of its office bearers during a Special General Meeting that was held online, a first among the national sports bodies.

Incumbent president Adille Sumariwalla was elected for his second term in April 2016, and the AFI was to hold the polls last month in its Annual General Meeting, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federation to postpone the elections.

Saturday’s meeting did not specify any date for holding the elections but the AFI said they can be held when a “physical meeting becomes possible”.

Sumariwalla was authorised to take a decision on the date of the elective Annual General Meeting in consultation with senior colleagues.

“There is no fixed time, the elections will be held at the first opportunity. We don’t want to postpone the elections for one year. It can be in three months or six months, we don’t know now,” he said.

“It was important that we followed due process though the members had approved the proposal to extend the term of AFI,” he added.

He said the AFI had initiated the election procedure by appointing a Returning Officer and securing the nomination of delegates from among the members.

“But that had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak,” he said.

The AFI accepted International Olympic Committee (IOA) member and IOA president Narinder Dhruv Batra’s suggestion that the elections could be deferred until a physical meeting becomes possible. Batra addressed the AFI members as a special guest.

Treasurer PK Srivastava told PTI that the AFI has informed the sports ministry about the postponement of the elections.

“We have already informed the ministry about this. They (ministry) have no issues with it. Normally, the AFI elections are held in April but under our constitution, the takeover of charge normally happens in October,” he said.

The members were also informed about the appointment of incumbent AFI secretary C K Valson as competition director of the Asian Athletics Association based in Bangkok.

Sumariwalla said the AFI would soon introduce an online pre-Level 1 coaching module so that parents and coaches of young athletes can inculcate the right training habits in them.

“We have had a number of talented athletes suffering early burnout because of over-training and early specialisation,” he said.

“We want to have 5000 coaches across 600 districts in the next 10 years.”

The meeting opened with Sumariwalla paying tribute to former chief coach Joginder Singh Saini who passed away in Patiala on March 1.