However, not everyone is convinced about the Bill in its current form as was evident at a symposium attended by stakeholders from various sporting disciplines to discuss the contentious Bill on the occasion of National Sports Day on Thursday.
Sheila Kanungo, President of the Maharashtra Rifle Association and Secretary of the National Rifle Association, said, “We need a Sports Code. We need legislation for good governance. We also need monitoring, but not too much monitoring. Government interference (in the working of sports bodies) is not good. It also goes against the Olympic Charter. But if we believe that the Sports Code will solve everything, we really need a reality check.
“My problem with the Sports Bill is that the governance the Sports Ministry is trying to implement is not for everybody. The government seems to be saying ‘If a National Sports Federation (NSF) wants our money, they have to adhere to the Sports Bill. If not, they will just be a recognised federation.’ This I don’t understand.”
Kanungo, who bagged the silver medal in the 10m air pistol (pairs) event at the Manchester Commonwealth Games, added: “I also don’t understand the age guidelines in the Sports Bill. Why can our Prime Minister be over 70 years and still rule the country, but a sports administrator be barred from holding office when he crosses 70? A sports administrator does not play on the field. But I understand and agree with the tenure restrictions, ideas tend to become stale and organisations need new ideas.”
Jay Kowli, the Vice President of the Maharashtra Olympic Association, added, “We (sports bodies) need to self-regulate. I welcome the Sports Code. But are all the codes only for NSFs? We need a code, but so does the Government of India. They too need to show some transparency with regards to where they are spending their funds. They need to be accountable too. They need to show deadline-oriented work.”
Former Mumbai Cricket Association official Ravi Mandrekar also slammed the age restrictions put forth in the draft National Sports Development Bill but added that the tenure restrictions (maximum two terms of four years each) were necessary. He said, “If a politician is allowed to hold office for more than a certain number of years, he will create a fiefdom and will be untouchable.”
Satish Sarhadi, Sports Authority of India’s director for Mumbai, said, “The Sports Code is a boon. Unless we have the Sports Code, our athletes cannot achieve excellence. I agree with all the guidelines laid down in the code, be it tenure or age. I know Kanungo ma’am made a point about the age of the PM, but a man must be of sound mind too.”
Other participants at the symposium also raised concerns that the formation of too many commissions under the Bill would lead to complication in running sports bodies, particularly in the first few years after the Bill is passed. The Bill seeks the formation of an Athletes Commission, an Ethics Commission and a Sports Election Commission. However, one aspect that all the office bearers of state sports bodies were unanimous in support of was the greater need for transparency.
Secretary of the Maharashtra Carrom Association Arun Kedar said the need of the hour was that every sports body, be it a national or a district sports body, create a website to ensure transparency.
“I believe that as soon as a sports body is formed it must create a website. The website must contain details about office bearers, such as when they were elected. Also, it must contain details about facilities the athletes are entitled to and where the sports body is spending the funds available to it. This will ensure transparency,” he added.
It may be noted that when the National Sports Development Bill was first envisaged by then Sports Minister Ajay Maken in 2011, the Union Cabinet had rejected it citing that its provisions were too intrusive and sweeping.
What is the National Sports Bill?
. NSFs shall ensure office-bearers retire at the age of 70.
. Any person who has served as an office bearer for two consecutive terms shall not participate in elections.
. Athletes should have at least 25 per cent representation on the executive committee.
. Accredited NSFs shall come under the purview of the RTI Act.