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Does AIFF retain the right to claim sports ministry grants?

Jaydeep Basu



The AIFF has withheld the prize money of all revolting I-League clubs, releasing only of champions Chennai City FC, but only after being served a reminder.

New Delhi: Sports minister Kiren Rijiju recently informed the Parliament about enhancing the funding of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for development of the game. The federation received Rs 23.08 crore in 2018-19. For 2019-20, the AIFF submitted a proposal of Rs 46 crore. Sources said it may have to settle for Rs 30 crore.

As a recognised national sports federation (NSF), the AIFF receives funding mainly under Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC) from Sports Authority of India (SAI). It mostly spends the money for various national team’s preparatory camps, exposure tours and participation in international tournaments.

Under the current scenario, do the AIFF has the right to claim the money as NSF? Or should the government release the fund?

Now that the AIFF’s “strictly confidential” agreement with its marketing partners is on public domain, it is no secret the federation receives an amount of around Rs. 50 crore annually from a private organisation.

The agreement also makes it clear that in exchange, the football federation has agreed to hand over the rights of selecting clubs and shaping the rules of running of its national league to the same organisation.

As per the agreement, the federation have forfeited the right to decide if a new club show interest to enter the league or the league should have promotion or relegation.

The agreement also says nominees of marketing partners would be accommodated in its important sub-committees in technical, financial and regulatory matters.

It will be interesting to know whether AIFF, since signing the agreement in 2010, has informed the government in writing the details of its financial, administrative and technical deals with its marketing partners or on the grants it separately receives from FIFA and AFC.

True, the annual government grant of Rs. 30 crore is not enough to run football in India. Without sponsors, the game cannot progress beyond a certain level. But does it imply the national league of the country can be put on sale?

After all, the country’s national team is chiefly selected on the basis of its national league. The government spends substantially on national team’s training, exposure and participation in international tournaments.

One more disturbing fact came to light recently. The AIFF released the prize money of a particular club (I-League champions) despite financial constraints. Payment of prize money of all other teams were put on hold without assigning any reason.

Interestingly, most of the clubs denied payment are part of the group seeking “justice” for I-League. Lack of money could be the reason for selective payment but if clubs allege arm twisting and blackmailing, they cannot be dismissed easily.

Sadly, even the clubs who are flexing muscles about knocking the doors of the court of law are expected to mess up while raising the real issues. While some club officials are inexperienced, two Kolkata clubs are so deeply submerged in their own “tradition” that they don’t even notice when their houses go under water.

The issue before the clubs is not about ascent of ISL or the degradation of I-League. It is all about who should run Indian football? A public body recognised as an NSF or a private body formed solely for commercial purposes?

If the AIFF under Praful Patel is pursuing a policy of neo-liberalism, it should better explain. To set a trend where money is more important than performance is dangerous and totally defeats the purpose of competitive sport.

The ugly side of the beautiful game should not be allowed to raise its head.