By- Kanika Goswamy
This article focuses on deciphering the legal side of the decision taken by FIFA to ban AIFF. Although the decision was overturned and the tires were lifted, the legal repercussions and other related consequences cannot be vitiated.
One of the key elements that have to be taken into consideration is the National Sports Development Code of 2011 and the National Code on Good Governance of Sports of 2017 and its relationship with the internationally accepted standards of sports law under Lex Sportiva. These regulations are closely knit with each other, thus making the consequences of the tires even more widespread.
The author has attempted at explaining the interconnection and the relation with the present factual matrix. The author has also dabbed into other consequences such as the potential loss of opportunities in the future and tainted international image.
A BRIEF RUN-DOWN OF THE FACTS
The All India Football Federation (hereinafter ‘AIFF’) functions as the governing body of football in India and is responsible for collaboration with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (hereinafter ‘FIFA’) which is the world governing body of football. Previously, it was announced that India would be hosting the U-17 Women’s Football World Cup 2022 from 11th Oct-30th October 2022. This turned out to be an exciting opportunity for India as it would further the development of the sports industry which was up until recently limited to cricket.
Praful Patel, the former president of AIFF, had served three times as the president over a span of twelve years thus, impairing him to head the committee for the fourth time as it was outside the mandate of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 .The delay in elections and the overstay of Praful Patel led the Supreme Court of India to constitute a Committee of Advisors consisting of three judges and former captain of the Indian football team to carry out the management of the association and conduct fresh elections.
However, on 14th August 2022, FIFA decided to ban AIFF for unduly management, lack of elections and undue influence of third parties due to the formulation of a Committee of Advisors set up by the Supreme Court of India. This decision was accompanied by a thorough investigation by the Indian courts into the question of whether the management of the association was swayed by the third party and who was at the center of such influence.
1.What is the National Sports Development Code of India And How is it Relevant in the Current Factual Matrix?
The National Sports Development Code of India 2011 (hereinafter ‘code’) was formulated with the purpose of promoting sports as a public good that has to be dispensed as a public function. In 2017, the National Code for Good Governance in Sports was introduced to enunciate the basic principles of good governance in sports.
Under Clause 9.3 (i) of the Code, to enable continuous support, financial as well as recognition from the Government of India, the sporting organizations have to follow proper, democratic, and health management practices to promote accountability and transparency in decision-making. The key element of any democratic institute is conducting regular elections to enable the constitution of a duly elected body.
The Election Bye-Laws, found in Annexure XXXVII, lay down a mandate that has to be followed where by an electoral college consisting of Permanent Members of State or Union Territories take place. Those who have affiliation with the association shall have two votes in electing the board or the members of the association. While scrutinizing the nominations, each candidate or their representative has to be present and raise any objections with regard to the nominations.
Further, in the letter so entailed in the Code, No. 8-17/2009-SP-III, the tenure limit for the president of the national sporting federation was provided as 12 years and they can hold the office consecutively with or without any break in between. The Delhi High Court has been elaborately elucidated upon the unlimited tenure of the board members and stated that the same stands as a violation of the International Olympic Charter.
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned, Mr. Patel had tried to carry on his tenure by one whole extra term and did not conduct elections as per the mandate requirements. This defeats the purpose of the code and leads to arbitrariness.
Further, these rules must be in accordance with universally acceptable principles called as Lex Sportiva. The Court of Arbitration for Sports (hereinafter ‘CAS’) has time and again emphasized on the fact that the transnational nature of the rules of the sporting authorities does not mean that they don’t have to abide by the general principles of law. These general principles provide a set list that is non-exhaustive and allows the articulation of minimum standards of procedural fairness in the sporting industry.
From the Indian perspective, it has been long held that foreign awards such as those given by CAS are enforceable in India by virtue of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, of 1996. Even when the well-settled principles of law are violated by any award given by CAS, the same shall be challenged as per Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
Therefore, even in the internationally aligned perspective, the omission of election can be viewed as being non-binding with the principles laid down under Lex Sportiva and a direct convention of the CAS.
- The Judgment and its Implications
After FIFA announced the ban, an order was passed by the Supreme Court of India on 22nd August 2022 that is allowed for a room to negotiate the upliftment of the ban on AIFF. Also, the conditions to be fulfilled in order to completely lift the tires were laid down.
The Court reiterated the Clause 17 of the National Sports Development Code of 2011 stating that an independent election body shall be formulated in order to carry out the elections. The body shall consist of 6 (4 males and 2 females) Eminent Players as defined under Article 1 (1)(g) National Code on Good Governance in Sports 2017. The date of the election was to be moved forward by a week in accordance with the Order passed on 3rd August 2022.
Consequently, on 27th August 2022, the ban on AIFF was uplifted and the U-17 Women’s Football World Cup had to be carried out in accordance with the schedule previously announced. Even though the court played an essential role in lifting the tire, the effects of the same can still be speculated. This opens doors for the conversation that the Indian sub-continent is not eligible for carrying out such major sporting events. The hiccup on the road can cost the country in terms of harboring a variety of sports that allow for the legal, economic and overall development of the industry.
Sporting federations though are considered as private bodies, they play a bigger role while dispensing their functions and directly impact the public at large. In the leading case of Ajay Jadeja v. Union Of Indiathe Supreme Court agreed with the Delhi High Court that sporting federations perform their functions as regulators and facilitators of public functions especially where national and public interests are at the centre.
Putting the same into perspective, the commercialization of sports has opened gates for revenue generation. In-depth examinations on the financial effect of sporting events conducted in Europe have demonstrated that this action has been consistently developing into one that supports the economy by producing a lot of income while giving business opportunities to the State’s workforce.
The intangible benefits of hosting sporting events include enhanced media presence that can lead to long-term increase in tourism and acts as a catalyst for foreign investment, infrastructure that can be potentially used to support future activities, and trade liberalization which increases the influx of trade activity.
Many international surveys have been analyzed and have led to the conclusion that the demand stimulating effect of such events prevails in the form of tourism before, during and after the event. There has been rise in guest nights, tourists and performances.
While taking the above-mentioned into consideration, the impact that a single sporting event will have on the Indian economy is undeniable. Further, the country’s image plays a crucial role in helping put a country on the radar. To provide a broader perspective to the word “country image” Martin and Eroglu (1993) defined it as “the total of all descriptive, inferential and informational beliefs one has about a particular country”.
Hosting a major sports event provides exposure to a country and it is covered in great detail by the media worldwide. The beliefs attached to a country are greatly impacted through such coverage. Hence, the reputation that a country has is generated through events of international importance.
The penalization of AIFF speaks volumes in terms of the impact generated on the country’s image alongside the economics of the event. Further, the legal repercussions come not only in terms of the Indian judiciary stepping up but also does not justify the robust legal system of checks and balances that the Indian sub-continent boosts.
The rapid rate at which the industry is growing, Formula E’s initiative to revive the Formula series in India by hosting a race in the street circuit of Hyderabad in 2023 and the signing of the contract with India to include the country on the calendar of Moto GP in 2023, it has to be taken into consideration that such cases can take away from the development of trust and long negotiations to undertake such sporting activities are rendered futile. Further, India would not only have lost the right to host the world cup but would have also lost the right to take part in international football championships which would have again rendered the efforts of the association futile.
The ban on AIFF and its subsequent upliftment set another in precedent that sporting activities not only have an economic impact but also have long-lasting impacts on the reputation in the international arena. Such repercussions and consequences weigh higher than the actions that have led to them.
Further, given the widening ambit of sports law in India, such as championships and the world cup allow the widen the horizons of laws and include certain situations which could not have been predicted had the country not organized the same. It puts the country back on the map for hosting such prestigious events and guarantees to bring changes in the legislations that might not be in tune with the international standards.
 Mukul Mudgal and Vidushpat Singhania, Law & Sports in India: Developments, Issues and Challenges (5th edn, Lexis Nexis 2014) 81.
 Mukul Mudgal and Vidushpat Singhania, Law & Sports in India: Developments, Issues and Challenges (5th edn, Lexis Nexis 2014) 82.
 Mark James, Sports Law (3rd edn, Red Globe Press 2017) 65.
 Mukul Mudgal and Vidushpat Singhania, Law & Sports in India: Developments, Issues and Challenges (5th edn, Lexis Nexis 2014) 425.
(Kanika Goswamy is a law undergraduate at University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. The author may be contacted via email at [email protected]).
Cite as: Kanika Goswamy, ‘What could the Suspension of AIFF by FIFA mean for the Indian Sports Development? Meta Title: Ban on AIFF’ (The RMLNLU Law Review Blog21 March 2023)