The SC ends the Praful Patel era in Indian football

The Supreme Court on Wednesday relieved the President of the All India Football Federation, Praful Patel, and his Executive Committee of their administrative responsibilities. Patel, a FIFA council member, had not called for the AIFF elections despite having completed three four-year terms and could not run for president again under the National Sports Code.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and PS Narasimha appointed a three-man Administrative Committee (CoA) in place of Patel and his committee. The CoA consists of former Supreme Court Justice AR Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian soccer team.

The court mandated the CoA to manage the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF, adapt the statutes of India’s premier football governing body to conform with the country’s national sporting code, and prepare electoral rolls so that an election for the AIFF’s Executive Committee could be held.

“We believe that it would be appropriate if the two-member Administrative Committee appointed with a specific mandate by order of this Court (November 10, 2017) be expanded and the mandate of the committee is similarly expanded. The Administrative Committee will be re-formed… and will deal with all affairs of the All India Football Federation immediately,” the court said.

The court also clarified that while the CoA has jurisdiction over the day-to-day activities of the federation, it may appoint Patel and his Executive Committee in an advisory capacity, but this is not mandatory.

backstory

Indian football can look at its fractured league structure – a structure that has helped more clubs to be forgotten – and its ever-dwindling influence in states other than Bengal, Kerala or Goa to gauge football’s mismanagement , which has taken place over the decades .

But things really came to a head when the legal deadlock over proposed changes to the AIFF constitution — a case that has been stuck in the Supreme Court since 2017 — meant the election was repeatedly postponed until Patel died two years after his tenure remained in power. No election had ever been postponed in the AIFF’s 85-year history and the Supreme Court was therefore forced to appoint a CoA.

It didn’t help that Patel and the AIFF were losing support both internally and externally at the time of this event. Be it Football Delhi, which wrote to the general secretaries of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, asking for the involvement of a normalization committee, or national associations like Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, which were bypassed by the AIFF to hold tournaments and coaching camps in the state – the AIFF kept bleeding internally. Football Delhi President Shaji Prabhakaran spoke to The Indian Express about the importance of moving forward now.

“The verdict is not surprising. We had expected that and also communicated it to the other associations. Everyone could see this was going to happen. We now have to see how we progress with Indian football because we cannot change what has not been done or what could not be done. It was their situation and they did it their way. We have to make sure we don’t get into such a situation again,” Prabhakaran said.

The final nail in the coffin for Praful Patel’s regime was hammered in when the Department of Sport issued an affidavit to the Supreme Court saying Patel was long past his welcome as President and had yet to ensure elections were held.

FIFA status in limbo

AIFF’s defense in court on Wednesday was to invoke FIFA and its zero-tolerance policy towards any external management of member associations. In the past there have been cases where FIFA has banned countries due to disputes within member associations.

In 2014, Indonesia went into a year-long ban after its sport ministry and football association fell out over who runs the sport in the country. This ban was lifted in 2016. In 2015, FIFA banned the Kuwait Football Association because its government drafted and enforced a sports law that violated the country’s football association’s right to an independent existence.

The Kuwaiti government was forced to restructure its bill to conform with both the FIFA Constitution and the International Olympic Committee Charter. The ban was lifted after two years, but during that time the country received no grants from world governing body and was banned from international competitions for both club and national teams – leading to defender Talal Al-Fadhel declaring that a “whole generation of footballers was lost’.

Prabhakaran wasn’t sure if FIFA would see this scenario as interference and propose penalties. “It all depends on how FIFA sees this scenario. They will see how these events will play out and could possibly intervene or call a third party to control the administration,” he said. However, he added that the matter requires more clarity from FIFA.

Both FIFA and AIFF Secretary General Kushal Das have been contacted to comment on the situation but had not responded to calls or emails at press time.

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