The crisis in Indian sports has come to a head with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspending the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation has been suspended by the International Boxing Association, and the Archery Association of India (AAI) has been de-recognised by the Indian Government. In all likelihood, other associations will face similar bans.
Sports is one area where India lags behind even some of the poorest nations in the world. This despite the huge pool of talented sportsperson that exists in all parts of India. At the junior levels, our boys and girls can compete with the best in the world in almost every sport. However when it comes to the senior levels, where the actual capabilities of our sportsperson are tested, we fail miserably. This shows that it is not the lack of talent that bogs down our athletes but somewhere along the line, it is the lack of proper training that leads to their poor performances in the international arena.
The fact that professional sportsperson in our country face a lot of hardships cannot be denied. There are the usual problems of lack of infrastructure and funds, lethargic approach on the part of Government agencies and indifference of the corporate sector in providing sponsorships. However the fundamental problem lies in the absence of a sporting culture in India. Sports in India are considered a secondary and supplementary activity. This explains to a large extent, the apathy on the part of the Government machinery towards sports. The corporate indifference too stems from the fact that they are not sure that the sponsorship money will be efficiently used in promoting the game and for the welfare of the players.
International sports is highly competitive where only the best and the brightest can hope to reach the top position. Past experience has shown that Government run organisations like the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have consistently failed to produce athletes who can compete at the international level. Hence the Government should withdraw itself from the administration and running of sports at the senior levels. The corporate sector should be encouraged to take full control of the management of games and training of athletes. This alone will ensure greater accountability on the part of the players and the coaches to show results. It should restrict its role to promoting sporting activities at the school and college levels and in providing jobs to meritorious sportsperson. It should make all efforts to encourage young boys and girls to take up sports as a full time profession and not as a secondary activity. These are some of the suggestions from Policy Proposals for India, a website that essentially focuses on some of the most challenging issues the country is facing, and at the same time offers concrete policy recommendations. LSFORINDIA.COM
According to Manisha Malhotra, a tennis Olympian and CEO of Mittal Champions Trust, “Lack of accountability is the bane of Indian sport.
Past experience has shown that Government run organisations like the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have consistently failed to produce athletes who can compete at the international level. Hence the Government should withdraw itself from the administration and running of sports at the senior levels. The corporate sector should be encouraged to take full control of the management of games and training of athletes. This alone will ensure greater accountability on the part of the players and the coaches to show results.
The Government is the biggest funder of sports. It has the highest number of facilities, but no real say. The federations who use the ‘we are autonomous bodies’ line while still availing of Government funds are the ones calling all the shots. And then there are the players who, with relative success and good rapport, can sway and sometimes coerce both the Government and the federations. This does not bode well for Indian sport. The players mistrust the federations and are sometimes unwilling to listen, if not under the threat of disciplinary action. They know that the people calling the shots are not experts. Selection committees consist of yes-men or cronies.
The Government is also to blame, since it tries to reel in the federations while its own Sport Authority of India is in a shambles. They do have various foreign experts who have been brought in for almost all the priority sports, yet the experts’ opinions are never taken. Instead it is the ‘Government observer’, who has not been around high level sport for years, who has the say.
The Indian athlete today has metamorphosed from the “poor soul” to someone who has a voice. The handful of successful athletes say they have become something ” despite the system”. They now use their success as a bargaining chip, sometimes in their own selfish interests. It is not hard to come up with a system, and there are specialists available to help with this exact job. Until we can come up with a system that is best for the country, we will keep dealing with the ineptitude of the above and get nowhere”.According to Abhinav Bindra, a world and Olympic champion in air rifle shooting, “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 interested 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 de-recognised 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 fore grounded 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. Officials must be accountable for their entire tenure. Just like athletes, they too must face frequent performance reviews to evaluate their success in the development of the sport they preside over. This cannot always be measured in terms of medals, but in the enhancement in the standards of the sport and the participation of young athletes. Officials must organise programmes that enable sports to grow. They must provide opportunities for sports in schools and develop a club culture. Only greater accountability, transparency and new standards of professionalism in sports association can ensure that India continues to participate in, and excel at, international sports”.