In a recent judgement the honourable Supreme Court demanded ‘institutional integrity’ from the BCCI. Like BCCI, almost all sports authorities in India are mired in controversies today. What is ailing these authorities and, why the institutional integrity is absent in these authorities? Is there a need to introduce some radical structural reforms to free them from the slew of controversies they are entangled in?
The first issue is regarding control of these organizations, which has drawn heavy criticism from all quarters. The sports federations have been controlled by politicians and businessmen, a dangerous nexus, which is notorious for power and profit sharing. Unlike the West, where private entities are involved in funding sports through competitive means, in India, we have only one stakeholder, the state, which controls all administrative activities of sports federations. So, like any other institution under the state monopoly, the heads and staff of these bodies have been appointed to serve various political interests, without considering their competence to run the administration of these bodies.
The sports institutions are not included in the definition of the State under article 12, which makes them non public institutions.This exception, coupled with the state monopoly in administration, has negatively affected the accountability mechanism in these bodies. Common wealth games scandal, match fixing issue in IPL, expulsion of Indian Olympic Association by International Olympic Committee for appointing charge-sheeted politicians and related controversies in Badminton and Hockey federation – every single example is a testimony to the sorry state of affairs in these bodies.
It is absurd to accept that BCCI, whose annual revenues are said to be more than the GDP of some sub Saharan countries, should not be accountable for its functions to the public. Supreme court has rightly observed that BCCI functions can not be called as private activity, as it is the only institution which monopolizes national cricket and thus, should meet the demand for the institutional integrity.
Unlike BCCI, other sports federations do not enjoy such lucrative sources of revenue. Also, the meager sum of money allocated to these bodies is siphoned off by corrupt officials instead of being utilized for the development of the sports infrastructure or providing good training and buying modern equipment for the players. For example, Indian Luger, Shiva Keshavan had to borrow equipment to participate in 2014 Winter Olympics.
In the light of the above stated issues, indeed, the sports administration should undergo some radical structural reforms. Sports is a state subject and reforms, if introduced, would not only require the approval of both houses of the parliament but of the states as well. This can further delay the already much delayed reform process, but if political will is there , it wont be difficult to arrive at consensus.
Structural reforms can start with dismantling the state monopoly and introducing a multi stakeholders approach by privatizing the funding process. State’s role can be reduced to providing suitable infrastructure at school and college level so that students could realize their potential, while the private players can be involved in finding the right talent and funding their future training and related expenses to make them internationally competent players. This would serve their profit motives and at the same time, would help in removing the present lacunae related to infrastructure and training.
In western countries, all sports federations are headed by sports-persons and they are given a specialized staff to administer their organizations effectively, but Indian federations still follow the archaic and ad hoc ways of sports administration. Thus, the sports bodies should be headed by people from sports fraternity itself so that they could understand the requirements of their organizations, and contribute to make them more competent and viable.
All sports federations should be accountable for their business. Though the multi stakeholder approach would ensure accountability, but to ensure greater transparency, self regulating and apolitical bodies can be established as independent ombudsman, similar to Football Ombudsman established by European Football Associations.
Previous government’s attempt to bring about a legislation to stop frauds in sports could not see the light. The new government does not only require to put in place such legislation, but also needs to reform these institutions structurally so as to remove the blots of the past and give Indian players an opportunity to make India proud in international sports.