Pressure seems to be building up on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for holding its long-overdue elections. While several members have openly expressed their dissatisfaction in the last few months, the Government of India too has now taken note of this irregularity.
In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on April 8, in relation to the Special Leave Petition filed by Rahul Mehra against the AIFF, in which the Union of India is a respondent, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) confirmed that the AIFF president Praful Patel and his committee has no mandate to hold on to their offices.
Patel, in December 2020, already completed his three terms and 12 years as president of the AIFF, the maximum permitted to a national sports federation (NSF) president as per the national sports code 2011, of which the AIFF is a signatory. The AIFF, however, didn’t hold the elections claiming it wasn’t possible because of a pending petition in the Supreme Court regarding its constitution.
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Now, 14 months after the AIFF remained a body without having an elected committee, the MYAS told the Supreme Court: “It is submitted that as the term of the existing committee (of the AIFF) is already over, and the existing president (Praful Patel) has completed more than 12 years as president, the Petitioner (AIFF) should hold elections without further delay as per extant instructions contained under Sports Code and the instructions issued by the Answering Respondent (sports ministry) from time to time.”
The ministry further said that AIFF is set to lose its recognition in the eyes of the government for not adhering to the sports code.
“As the last elections held by the petitioner was on 21.12.2016, as such the Petitioner is required to conduct fresh elections. While recently the Answering Respondent renewed the Petitioner’s annual recognition for a year with effect from 23.10.2020, such recognition is subject to the outcome of the special leave petition pending before this honourable court.
“Furthermore, the Answering Respondent in their renewal letter dated 23.10.2020 has categorically stated that the Petitioner needs to bring their constitution in line with provisions of the Sports Code within six months from the date of issue of the letter.
“That thus the tenure of an office bearer of the Petitioner, such as the president, who has already served 12 years as president of AIFF, will be in violation of the Sports Code, specifically clause 9.3 (iii) of the Sports Code…”
While the sports ministry has categorically said the current AIFF committee, headed by Praful Patel, has no right to stay in power, people within the federation are not confident about any change the strong observations from the government would bring in the AIFF.
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One of the members alleged: “Patel’s committee has violated all rules and norms of the AIFF, which is an 85-year-old institution. All Mr. Patel wants is to stay in power as long as possible, so that it also helps to achieve his ambitions in the world body, FIFA. Whatever the government has to say, AIFF will not hold elections.”
Another senior official questioned the intention of the government. He said: “What was the government doing for the past 14 months? Why didn’t they put pressure on the AIFF? We are not sure whether the government actually is interested in implementing the sports code.”
After postponing the elections claiming legal problems, Patel didn’t face much resistance for his unprecedented act initially. However, a couple of months ago, in the annual general meeting of the AIFF in Mumbai, a few members, led by Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) president NA Haris, raised their voice against the current arrangements. While Patel tried to pacify them pointing out his helplessness over the court cases pending, he finally agreed to constitute a committee to look into the matter.
The three-member committee was asked to submit their report by the first week of May, but since then its tenure has been extended by another month. Haris, who is a member of the committee, sources claimed, wasn’t too happy with the way the only meeting of the committee was conducted.
In the annual general meeting, held virtually in December 2020, it was decided that since the elections couldn’t be held, the present committee should refrain itself from taking major decisions except the ones absolutely necessary. Members, however, alleged the arrangement was grossly violated and decisions were taken almost at a will by senior officials.
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“This committee even put a back date to clear the appointment of a senior official. They spent close to Rs. 4 crore as legal fees. This is despite the fact that the petition filed by the AIFF in the Supreme Court hasn’t come up for hearing even once in the past 14 month. Then why are the legal fees sometimes more than the money spent on development of junior football,” wondered a member.
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