LEGISLATING A SPORTS BILL IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Come Olympics, FIFA World Cup and any crisis with Indian sports then India truly becomes a sporting nation – the number of questions only rise to an exponential level, the outcry goes to such a high decibel level which kind of indicates that majority of Indians want the nation to be World Champions and everything with sport in India is bad. As soon as these global events or crisis with sports gets over, majority of them forget sports and becomes passive observers. The same situation also comes to play when someone achieves success at the international stage. This is typical India with sports. There are so called activists in sports who have all the time and resources to knock on the door of courts and many times with frivolous complaints. Going to court is not an objectionable thing but these activists must do other possible things to improve sports but none of them will take a step to improve the condition of sport by taking proactive steps. Many critics of these activists say going to court for selfish reasons and to earn brownie points. People who truly love and are passionate to develop the sport will never engage in on or off the court battles because they know and understand the true value of sport and sportsman spirit. The true activists of sport will always work with the given situation to improve the existing situation constructively and that’s what sport teaches. Taking all the stakeholders along and building capacity of each set of constituents in sport in India should be the fundamental task with an aim to develop the overall scenario of sport in India. In today’s India, the top most positive aspect of sport is that many like-minded individuals are coming together to promote sports and if the overall perception with sport in India improves then more such individuals and companies will come forward to develop the sport. India has a gold mine of talents and we can be easily amongst the top 5 countries in the world as far as Olympic medal tallies are concerned in the next two decades. Whether it is Hockey, Football, Volleyball and Athletics or other sports, India has a huge talent base. We should create a positive culture for sports in India for all these potential talents to get nurtured in the best possible manner.
Government has a primary responsibility in creating a policy framework taking along all the key players of sporting ecosystem for the development of sport. Government has a bigger role in bringing all the key players of sports into one table  to have a dialogue to frame a policy which is realistic to Indian scenario.
Sports Governance & Absence of a Sports Bill Sports governance is not only an issue in India but also it is the primary issue across the globe.  There is enormous scope to improve the overall sports governance of sports in India. Very few sports organisations in India are following global best practices and it is the responsibility of the government to come up with a sports bill for not only adopting best practices across sports federations on governance but also to provide a much-needed fillip to sports industry in India. In the absence of the sports bill many of the sports associations are spending considerable time and resources in court cases. With the sports bill in place courts will be free from many cases because when there is a law then litigants will be hesitant to go to the court with frivolous complaints and there will be a stronger judicial process within the sports organisation and affected parties can get their timely justice within the sports judicial set up.
Courts will find a great tool in the sports bill to deliver a uniform and consistent judgement in many disputes related to sports.
Benefits of Legislating a Sports Bill Legislating a sports bill will have multiple benefits and it is the opportune time to do it. After Lodha Panel report the Cricket governing body in India has gone for a major surgery and if there is a legislation in India to better manage sports then it would greatly help sports in India. Many have the opinion that the Lodha recommendations should be implemented across sports and that is the only way sports can improve in India.  It should not be the case, through a sports bill the sports ministry can bring in global best practices and a scenario which helps in implementing global best practices to Indian sports is going to create a much needed positive environment for sport in India. What the Legislation should cover?
  • Sports Governance Global Best Practices
    • Eligibility & Tenure of office bearers
    • Election Code
    • Transparency
    • Ethics and Compliance
    • Judicial System
    • Stakeholder Participation
    • Accountability Mechanism
    • Mandatory areas in the constitution/ statutes (prescribe a model statutes/ constitution based on global best practices)
    • Division and Segregation of powers between Executives and Professionals
    • Independent Audit and Compliance Structure
    • Independent members in certain important committees
 
  • Promote democracy and democratic values and principle
  • Promote Professionalism
  • Promote Sports Excellence
  • Government funding and a transparent process of funding mechanism
  • Bring in new sports entity registration act, currently most of the sports federations are registered under different society acts. There is a huge scope to improve this aspect, to further strengthen the sports entity under a national law and like companies act. For sports a combination of Society, Trust and Companies Acts are required and if it is created within the sports bill then it would give a great fillip to sports. Thus, creating an independent Sports Regulatory Authority of India (SRAI) would be a welcome move. Like, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Where there is no government interference on day to day management of the sports federations or associations. SRAI can issue required licenses to each of the Federations/ Associations who all fulfil the required criteria and that way sports governance in India can move to a global standard. Further, judicial activism or overreach will be limited because there won’t be any ambiguity in the system.
  • Every year each of the sports organisation must apply to claim Income Tax refund and it is a very complicated process and thus there should not be any income tax applicable to the sports organisation and it should be linked to the License from SRAI under a new act
  • Monitoring system for good governance
  • Clear Division of Role and Responsibilities between Union govt., State Government, Sports Federations, IOA and other sports promoting bodies including corporate managed sports firms
  • State and district sports bodies – similar structure of sports governance at the grassroots level
  • Bidding and Hosting International Sporting Events – World Cups/ Championships, Olympics, Asian Games, Continental Championships, etc.,
  • Sports Betting and Criminality
  • Sports Fraud, match fixing and Corruptions including age cheating
  • Doping related areas
  • Conflict of interest involving administrators and office bearers of various sports bodies, govt. officials, business and commercial partners
  • How other criminal laws can be linked with the sports
  • The role of Law Enforcing Agencies – Investigation, finalising charge sheet, etc. involving specific cases (like, matching fixing, betting, serious frauds, etc.,)
  • Sports Infrastructure Development Concessions
  • Role of different govt. departments in promoting sports
  • CSR Funding – fixing eligibility and defining areas for the use of CSR funds under corporate mandatory 2% profit utilisation in CSR projects. There should be a mandatory spend on sports development from this 2%, say 15-20% of this 2% must be invested in sports by private and public sector companies.
  • Role of Schools, Colleges and Universities which should be linked to Education related policies and regulations
  • Formational of Sports tribunal for speedy sports dispute resolution (National Level, after exhausting all the channels within the given sport structure) which should be a CAS of India for specific type of cases. But not overlooking the established International Sports Justice System through Int Sports Org to CAS
  • Sports should be given Industry Status and there should be provision for granting various concessions for attracting higher investment into sports and promoting sports as an Industry which will help in job creation, sports contribution to GDP, etc.
  • Sports and Environment
  • Sexual harassment and child abuse
  • Sports Safety and security
  • Welfare of sportsmen
  • Sports manufacturing and skill development aspects
  • Sports research and innovations
  • Sports Education
  • Sports Science and Technological Aspects
  • Integrating RTI into sports
  • Publication of annual audited account
  • Synergy and partnership between various government Ministries and departments (Health, Education, Social Welfare, Women’s and Child, and other departments)
  • Autonomy of the sports organisation and respecting the international sports governing and IOC Charters
  • There are various other areas which can be included to make the sports bill as comprehensive as possible.
  Framing the Regulation
Sports is about inclusivity and when framing the regulation, it is very important to keep that point in mind that sports should remain open to everyone
In terms of sports management it is foolish to think that it is only ex-sportsman who can govern and manage sports better, there are exceptions and those exceptions are there in every field. Therefore, in terms of governance the rule should be such that it always can attract better talent irrespective of the background or profession. Banning politicians out rightly is not going to be a sensible decision, if one looks back the sports development in India many of the politicians have played an important role, whether the decision to host first ICC Cricket World Cup 1987 (the late NKP Salve President of BCCI) under whose leadership India won the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1983. If we look into the current sports infrastructure status of the country, then it will be clear that 90% of the infrastructure were built because of the proactive role played by many politicians and ministers leading different sports organisations.  Wherever the leadership is actively engaging professionals to manage sports one will find that things are changing fast and in few cases, there are significant improvement in overall governance and management of sport. Government’s existing Sports Development Code The government does have a sports development code and it is currently under review where Ministry of Sports have formed a committee to come up with the new code following the SC ruling on Lodha Panel recommendations on BCCI. Developing a sports code won’t be enough as this doesn’t stand in the court of law and interpretations so far have not been consistent. When the Ministry is making an honest effort to improve the overall sports governance then it is better to go for a sports bill which is in need of the hour and that would be the most appropriate step. With the increase of commercialisation of sports in India the interference, crisis, problems and ills will only grow in sports. When sports matter goes to civil court then the sport suffers because the time it takes to pronounce the judgement. India is anyway known to time consuming justice system and many times disputes takes more than a year and that situation badly impacts players, officials and the growth of the sport itself suffers. Like in sport the decisions of the Referee or Empire are instant and that’s the spirit of the sport. Therefore, to ensure speedy and timely resolution of disputes a comprehensive sports bill is a must. But legislation should not mean governmentalization of sports in the country. Government must empower the sports organisations and put in place a very transparent accountable structure in place.  Sports in India has a bright future and if there is legislative backing for sports then sports fundamentals will be strengthened and Indian sports would be much better prepared to move to elite sports nation.   What we can achieve from the Sports Bill? The government is actively discussing on bringing sports in the concurrent list and considering all of these developments it is the opportune time to legislate a sports bill and if one looks back the match fixing or spot fixing problems with Indian cricket which triggered the court to take the battle in its hand and formulate a Lodha Panel. Had there been a sports bill then the guilty could have been behind bars without much delay and there could have been a strong deterrent to prevent corruption or fraud in Indian cricket. The sports industry in India has the potential to contribute 1% of the total GDP in next 10-15 years and therefore, everyone involved with Indian sports should primarily think of strengthening the fundamentals and thus the whole ecosystem of sport in India will get a tremendous boost which would only mean a brighter, stronger and faster India in the global sports arena.

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