'Implementation of Sports Code not at the cost of AFC or FIFA norms' - AIFF President Praful Patel

The AIFF head honcho has called for the Indian Parliament to give the nod to the Sports Code, whilst speaking at FICCI's Goal 2013, a convention on Indian football in Delhi...
All India Football Federation (AIFF) President and union minister Praful Patel has come out in support of the contentious Sport Code and also stressed that the Parliament should give it the nod so that it could be implemented. He said that the code should ensure that national federations were not pitted against their international parent bodies. Patel also said that implementation of the legislation would not come at the cost of AFC or FIFA guidelines.

“There are certain sets of FIFA and AFC rules which AIFF has to follow, and we cannot go against these guidelines. So, it will have to be ensured that national sports federations (NSFs) don’t go against their international federations, while adhering to the Sports Code.  Doing that could lead to disaffiliation by the international federations and we (the NSFs) will be the losers,” said the national cabinet minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
Patel also outlined his reasons for awaiting Parliament’s approval for implementation of the code. “The Sports Ministry should take into confidence all the NSFs and other stakeholders connected with the development of sports in the country. If at all the code is to be implemented, I favour doing it after approval by the Parliament, and after consultation with the NSFs,” he said.

An earlier draft of the sports code was rejected by the Cabinet, and the current sports minister has made it abundantly clear that the government is in no mood to compromise on the issue.

It must be remembered that the controversy over application of the sports code in the Indian Olympic Association’s elections has resulted in the country’s apex sports body being suspended by the International Olympic Association.

During his inaugural address to the convention, Patel said that the AIFF would allows two teams owned or backed by corporate bodies into the I-League from next season. “Commercialisation of the game is the only way forward to raise its profile. So, we are allowing two clubs backed or owned by a corporate house in the 2013-14 I-League season. But these two clubs will have to give an undertaking that they will invest in infrastructure development and will maintain separate commercial identity,” he said.

“They will have to be given some time to do these things and so they will not be relegated for three years. Obviously since they are going to be backed by corporate houses they will have good players and they will do well and not be relegated,” he added.

The AIFF has faced several issues in making the Indian game more professional with I-League clubs struggling to comply with AFC licensing norms, that would enable them to participate in the AFC Champions League.

Out of the current top division clubs Air India and ONGC are most likely to make way for the two corporate backed teams to be introduced next season. The AIFF President assured that the national football body would strictly adhere to AFC rules, and any clubs that fail to comply with the same would have to make way.

The minister also called for increased participation in football from the corporate sector and said, “It will be difficult for Indian football to develop with the commercialization of the game and the corporate sector will have to come forward and show more enthusiasm. There is a lot of potential for the corporate sector to benefit from, with the commercialisation of the game”.

In particular, he stressed the need for investment in infrastructure development. “I am going to use my good offices for a corporate house to adopt a football academy the AIFF is setting up. Two academies have started functioning and another five will do so next year. So our effort would be that each academy is adopted by a corporate sector," Patel revealed.

The union cabinet minister identified the lack of world class infrastructure as a key cause for the decline of Indian football. He stated, “Because of the lack of infrastructure, Indian football has been lagging behind other countries after being an Asian power in the 1950s and 60s. Ever since our football has been declining and we have lost a crucial 30-40 years."

He continued, “In a big country like India, there is not a single world-class football specific stadium. It is big challenge going forward and in the long haul for Indian football to become at least an Asian power. But things are going in the right direction and the next 10 years should see football becoming the top sport in India.”

The AIFF boss also indicated that the authorities were looking at organising a short tournament featuring city-based teams along the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Hockey India League (HIL).

“HIL and IPL have enjoyed great success, though I am not happy at cricket being the top sport in the country. So we are organizing a short franchisee based tournament, so that players can earn good money from it and the game becomes visible in a big way through television,” he said.

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