The way to sporting success
The Delhi High Court order, in response to a public interest litigation, that elections to sports bodies be held strictly according to the national sports development code, is welcome. This code, which came into effect on 1 January last year, fixes 70 years as the age limit and twelve years as the maximum tenure for the chiefs of sports federations. The enforcement of this code is necessary as it will end the uninterupted tenures that administrators have enjoyed till now in these sports bodies. Powerful persons, most of whom are politicians, with no understanding or experience of sports, have occupied these posts for a long time, and have treated these bodies as personal fiefdoms. They have been run on an ad hoc basis, catering to the whims and fancies of certain individuals. The result has been a lack of professionalism as also a lack of transparency and accountability in the functioning of these bodies. Thus, one of the the biggest problems of Indian sport so far has been unwanted interference by those who chair apex bodies and who have been more interested in power, money and publicity and less interested in the development of sport. The result is an abominable level of mismanagement, nepotism and corruption with none of the sports bodies free from this interference. Legislation that could bring transparency into sports administration is opposed in Parliament by vested interests as at stake are huge sums of money. It is a commentary on the state of affairs that change in the culture is being ushered in through a high court judgement and not through Parliament, which should have been the case. Had the administrators of these bodies been serious about their work, they would have ensured adequate infrastructure, as also sufficient modern training and fresh talent that would have been groomed to meet international competition. Instead, they have let these languish. The results are there for all to see in the dismal performance of India in the recent Olympics, where it won only six medals, finishing only 55th in the medal standing. Among the prime examples of this culture has been Indian hockey which has slid to abysmal levels from the time India used to win gold medals. As far as other sports are concerned, they have just not come up. Hopefully, with the implementation of the High Court order, things will change in the administrative culture of the sporting federations and greater sporting successes will come India’s way in the future.