No harm if politicians run sports: Goel

Decks are being cleared for the National Sports Development Code, which will set certain norms for the sports federations. The bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament this monsoon session.

There may be many dos and don’ts to ‘clean’ the system. But if you thought the sports code will drive the sports out of politicians clutches, that’s not going to happen. “I don’t believe that politicians shouldn’t be there (running the federations),” says Sports Minister Vijay Goel, who “personally does not see any harm in letting politicians run National Sports Federations (NSFs)”.
However, the Minister does warn that national sports federations should not expect anything from the government if they fail to comply with the provisions of the code.

A nine-member government panel was formed in January this year to make recommendations for evolving a comprehensive code across all sports disciplines. Report on the long-awaited code is expected soon. The ministry will present the matter to the Cabinet for approval once it gets a feedback from all concerned.

Mr Goel was Speaking on a range of issues during an interaction with PTI journalists. “We want all Federations to follow the Sports Code and if they cannot, they should not expect anything from us. We work like Patrons. To fix their accountability, we have constituted a Sports Code review committee,” Goel said.

“When the IOA made two charge-sheeted people life presidents, we immediately swung into action and suspended the IOA. We respect the autonomy of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), IOA and other federations but we also want transparency and accountability,” Goel said.

Asked specifically about when the Code is expected to become a law, Goel said,” We can easily present it in the upcoming Parliament session.” The monsoon session of Parliament starts in July, says a report in FirstPost .

Goel made it clear that not many changes are required in the already-framed Code. “The Sports Code, if implemented in its present form, is more than enough. Ninety per cent Federations are following it and others will have to fall in line. We have resolved the disputes in the Associations of karate, boxing, tennis and now we have set sights on archery and basketball. These will also be resolved soon,” he said.

The age and tenure of the office-bearers and eligibility of voters in the elections of the federations are two major issues addressed by the Sports Code. The proposed Code calls for one state one vote for all NSFs whereas, in various associations such as the All India Tennis Association (AITA), a few states have more than one votes.

The government panel which includes former Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and legendary Prakash Padukone has been tasked to study the existing sports governance frame work, issues relating to sports governance in the country, recent developments related to sports governance, including court judgments & international best practices and make recommendations on bringing out the Code.

Recently, the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee had ruled that no minister or a serving bureaucrat be allowed to hold office in the BCCI. Similar provisions are being advocated for other sports as well.

“It is my personal view that if a minister cannot devote time towards sports administration and remains outside, it is understandable but federations cannot be run just by the players. There are administrative, PR and other things for which other people are required. We have to see what is the character of the individual,” he said.

“I will not see if he is bureaucrat or not. I will not talk about ministers because maybe there is a time constraint for them. I don’t believe that politicians should not be there,” he added.

Responding to a question on whether sports can be free from politics, he said, “All funds are given by the government. It’s a democratic government. If an MP is doing something, he is doing so as a people’s representative.”

Talking about the inclusion of sports in the concurrent list, Mr Goel said the Ministry is awaiting a response from various stakeholders. “I had a meeting with the Dronacharya awardees, the Arjuna awardees, Olympic medallists. Then we had a (state) Sports Ministers’ meeting, PSUs meeting, Federations’ meeting and decided that sport will be taken to the concurrent list”.