New Delhi: Sports minister Kiren Rijiju has said the government was open to review the clause in the proposed National Sports Code which bars Ministers, MPs and MLAs to be part of sports administration and promised to form an expert panel to look into the contentious issue.
Rijiju said the government and the IOA were not conflicted on the Code issue after his first-ever formal meeting with officials of National Sports Federations (NSFs) and the IOA but insisted it did not come up for discussion.
“Sports Code is just a part of one thing which we consider as important but our main purpose is to promote sports. With regard to Sports Code, we have already taken a decision that this is a technical issue, this is an issue related to policy, so an expert committee will look into it at an appropriate time,” Rijiju said.
“Along with the Indian Olympic Association, we will form an expert committee which will take a call but not now. We didn’t deliberate on the issue in today’s meeting. We deliberated on the promotions of sports and Olympic preparation,” he said
“The IOA represents the interests of all sports federations. When the IOA President said he is satisfied with today’s meeting that means we are together. There is nothing called conflict. There is no conflict,” he added.
The Minister earlier in the day a Sports Code which is acceptable to all will be put in place by the government.
“We can’t single out any profession with regards to governance of the sport. It would be wrong to say that businessmen cannot take part in sports federations or politicians and officers cannot take part then who will run sport?” asked Rijiju.
“It is not about the profession it is about how suitable one is to run the sports federation. We cannot single out any person of any background. What is in the best interest of sport will be put in the Sports Code.”
“There was virtually no discussion on the sports code today. I believe the sports minister knows that the IOA and NSFs are opposed to the draft Sports Code and proposed changes. He straightaway said that a new committee will be formed to look into the sports code,,” a top IOA official told PTI.
Asked about the earlier Sports Code, he said, “We can take good provisions from there and include it. It will be for the good of Indian sports.”
Majority of the NSFs are against the age cap (70 years) and tenure clause in the 2017 draft Sports Code, besides the clause which bars politicians and bureaucrats from holding office in IOA and NSFs.
Asked if a middle path could be found between all stakeholders, the Minister said: “There is no middle path, we are together. I want a Sports Code which is universally acceptable, which is suitable for sports and won’t lead to any controversy.”
“Why courts are intervening in sporting matters? If they are required to intervene it means there is a failure of sports mechanism. There will be no issue because all are on board whether it is IOA or NSFs. Sports Code will be reviewed with full consensus.”
Asked if IOA’s coming under the ambit of the Sports Code would amount to government interference, risking its affiliation with the International Olympic Committee, Rijiju said: “There is something called sovereignty. Can anything function out of that?”.
IOA President Narinder Batra welcomed the government’s decision to form an expert committee.
“Absolutely we are on board. There will be a committee formed in time to come. We will have discussions and take it forward accordingly. We are satisfied with today’s discussion,” he said.
“I think we should focus more on 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics. Most of the deliberations took place on this subject.”