The All India Football Federation has for the moment avoided the prospect of a ban by convincing a joint delegation of the world body – FIFA – and the continental governing body – Asian Football Confederation – of its intention to have a newly elected executive by the end of September.
As it stood at the end of a series of meetings and discussions with various “stakeholders” of Indian football, the mandarins of the world and continental bodies assessed the current situation but held out the threat of a ban if the arrangements in the coming days did not comply with the FIFA statutes.
The parent body of the sport recognises only its own laws as the sole mode of governance for its affiliates and considers intervention from the government or court as “third party intervention” meriting a ban.
With the former executive body of the AIFF, which was functioning on an interim basis for more than 15 months since the expiry of its term, dissolved by a mandate from the Supreme Court, the national body is currently functioning under a Committee of Administrators (CoA) instituted by the apex court.
At the conclusion of three days of meetings on Thursday, the visiting delegation left with the assurance of completing the new constitution, which is being drafted for an excruciatingly long period, by July 31 and the election process by the end of September.
“The prospect of a ban was looming all the time when the FIFA-AFC delegation held meetings with various parties related to Indian football. The World body does not brook any interference from anyone, even if it is from the government or the courts of a country. Now it is upon the interim administrators, the CoA, to set the house in order before the world body feels there are no ‘external’ intrusions,” said a senior official, who was privy to the developments in the last three days.
“The situation was resolved because the FIFA-AFC delegation felt that the CoA, the clubs and the state associations were on the same page as they all want the reforms in the shape of a new constitution,” said a state association official attending the meetings. “But there is a deadline for all this and the future of Indian football will be in jeopardy if the timeline is not adhered to. That was a clear message given by the delegation,” he added. India stands to lose the chance
“The meetings concluded that the next steps should be the ratification of the AIFF Statutes in line with the FIFA/AFC principles of good governance and the holding of an Electoral Congress to choose the next AIFF leadership. This would be based on a timeline agreed by AIFF stakeholders,” said the AIFF release. The delegation was led by the AFC General Secretary Windsor John and included AFC Deputy General Secretary Vahid Kardany, FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer Kenny Jean-Marie and FIFA Director of Strategic Projects and Member Association Governance, Nodar Akhalkatsi.
The meetings also had their points of digression where some of the I-League clubs demanded the introduction of a promotion and relegation process from the next season in the country’s top league Indian Super league following the initial roadmap of development.
“This was not a part of the official agenda but came up as an informal discussion when the I-League clubs met the FIFA-AFC delegation. This needs to be agreed upon by the FSDL that runs the ISL. There is no official declaration about it till now,” said an observer overseeing the meetings. The FSDL and AIFF had previously announced that the promotion to ISL will start from the 2023-24 season.”
The AIFF came under the scanner of the country’s financial auditor – CAG – just before the FIFA-AFC delegation arrived. “The CoA feels that there are some financial irregularities committed during the tenure of the previous AIFF administrators and has involved the CAG to do a forensic audit to determine the scope of anomalies in the financial dealings happening in the last few years,” said a former AIFF official. “The payment of Rs. 24 lakhs to an astrology firm is also a part of the investigations. There have been a few more instances of irregularities with the senior men’s National team. That is also being probed,” said the official on conditions of anonymity.