The ever increasing stories of corruption and nepotism in sports administration have started a debate over who should run sports federations in the country and the Honourable Supreme Court was also forced to air its reservations over the control of politicians and businessmen on these organisations.
Hearing a petition against the functioning of Hockey India, the Supreme Court bench comprising justices T S Thakur and J Chelameshwar said that politicians and businessmen heading sports bodies are causing harm to the games and should leave their running to sportpersons.
The observations may be directed at the sorry state of hockey administration in the country, but holds true for almost all sports federations. However, the suggested solution to let sportspersons run the federations seems more simplistic than effective.
The legendary Prakash Padukone who staged a revolt against the then Badminton Association of India president Fazil Ahmed in the 1990s told yours truly a few years back that he quit the Executive President's post because he was able to understand the needs of the sportsperson but the administrative procedures were too much to handle for him.
“I quit the post because I felt I should concentrate on coaching and let competent people handle the administration responsibility,” he had said.
This does not mean that sportspersons cannot be good administrators. But just like a good player doesn't automatically become a good coach, there is no guarantee that sports administration will improve by putting a sportsperson at the helm.
In fact, quite a few state bodies are being headed by sportspersons and the General Secretary of the now suspended Indian Olympic Association has been an Asian Games medallist. However, that hasn't ensured any stark improvement in the functioning of these bodies.
Sports administration is a specialised job and needs formal training just like a player needs proper coaching and training to excel on the field. How many of our sportspersons can boast of the requisite formal education to run such big organisations? The likes of former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha and tennis player Manisha Malhotra are an exception.
Many international sports federations are currently headed by sportspersons. But a quick look at all of them will reveal that most of them have gone back to business schools to complete their education after retiring and have a professional staff to run these organisations. Indian sports could take a leaf out of the AAP movement and campaign on clean administration that presents a different alternative to the current regimes. Of course, the electoral system is not exactly comparable as voting is limited to members of each federation, but there is no doubt fresh thinking is needed.
In India, federations are still run on adhoc basis with most officials working in honorary capacity. This means that running the federations professionally is least of their priority. The honorary structure also does not breed accountability and that is the real problem which is ailing Indian sports.
The Government of India had proposed to all National Federations to appoint a full time Chief Executive Officer to handle the day-to-day operations of the federations with the Sports Ministry footing their payment bill.
However, only a handful of federations have responded to the proposal favourably.
In the Indian system, the politicians or businessmen are normally looked as trouble-shooters when the federations are in urgent need for funds or any issues need to be sorted out at the earliest. Instead of getting into the debate as to whether sportspersons or politicians should hold power in sports federations, the way forward should be to create a professional structure to run these federations with selections based on competence and not on emotions and electoral politics.