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SHANTANU BASU | 4 JANUARY, 2017

Of Money and Patronage in India's Apex Sporting Associations


NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding an elaborate nationwide sports-promotion network, India’s achievements admitted by Indian Olympic Association (IOA)’s are 24 medals in a span of 115 years, and 422 medals of 6848 (6%) that were available in all Commonwealth Games to date.

The IOA’s web site lists 34 state/UT Olympic associations and 39 national sports associations. Even UTs like Diu & Daman and Chandigarh have a ‘state’ Olympics association to enlarge IOA’s Electoral College. Likewise, the range of games is bewildering and includes luge, ice skating, ice hockey, wushu, taekwondo, rugby, netball and handball, virtually unheard in India.

What is even more interesting is that the IOA web site still shows the last audited accounts as having been prepared for 2009-10, i.e. five years in arrears. The 2008-09 accounts of the IOA show that it received Rs. 2.80 crore as grants received from diverse sources pending utilization, yet there is nothing in the public domain to show that utilization finally happened and whose bona fides were certified by an external agency.

Surprisingly, within a year, i.e. from 2007-08 to 2008-09 investments made by IOA rose from Rs. 23.70 lakh to Rs. 6.60 crore.

Affluence of IOA showed up in Rs. 7.04 lakh ‘entry fees’ to the Beijing Olympics. What were these fees paid for?

Likewise, IOA was rich enough to provide Rs. 22.17 lakh for CWG, Melbourne for MoYAS & DDA officials and IOA office bearers to stay put in Melbourne for 2-3 weeks, many with their spouses.

There are also intriguing items like “Raffles Square Development (P) Ltd.” for Rs. 9.78 lakh, a real estate development in Candolim, Goa. Neither is any information on utilization of grants-in-aid received from MOYAS of Rs. 3.47 crore in 2007-08 and from International Olympic Committee (IOC) of Rs. 1.60 crore nor Rs. 60.43 lakh for hockey available in the public domain.

The web site neither provides the list of previous Governors/Directors of the Board of Management/Executive Council nor the current list of office bearers with their dates of election and re-election, sporting achievements, etc., least of all the grants-in-aid it receives from MoYAS.

What is equally interesting is that most affiliated associations operate out of official residences of Members of Parliament and private residences of their principal officers/members, many of whom are legislators and prominent businessmen. Google searches made on each principal officer and his/her deputy never seem to throw up their sporting achievements for the associations they head. It is therefore not surprising that Chef de Missions and their deputies at successive Olympic and other international Games have had little to do with sports.

Like IOA, Hockey India (HI) boasts of an octogenarian politician – a former Speaker of a State Assembly and State Minister – as its Life President. Inter-federation transfers are apparent as the current President of HI was also Treasurer of DDCA at one time apart from being the long-serving Secretary of HI before his elevation as President. HI has 20 member states affiliated to it.

There is another category of associate members that makes for interesting reading. Dadra & Nagar Haveli Hockey Association, Hockey Gangpur – Odisha (apart from Hockey Odisha as member), The Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd. and Vidarbha Hockey Association (apart from Hockey Maharashtra as member), Hockey Patiala (apart from Hockey Chandigarh and Punjab as members with Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal heading the Punjab unit), Hockey A&N Islands, Coorg (apart from Hockey Karnataka as member) and Telangana Hockey (apart from Hockey AP as member). HI is registered under the Societies Act that brings it fully within the jurisdiction of GNCTD.

What is intriguing is that the current President was the Treasurer of HI at least till May 2015 when the Memorandum & Articles of Association of HI were updated. These Articles also show that of seven Governing Body members, four were businessmen and an MLA, ‘Consultant’ and Service were the rest. Needless to add, the CVs of none of these office bearers is available on HI’s official web site. Art. 2.1.1.3 of MAA states that of the seven Governing Body members, three shall be Life Members; however, no criterion for their nomination is given. Nor is there any mention of the qualifications or mode of appointment/election of the office bearers who are members of HI.

Art. 4.4 give a maximum of 12 years tenure to HI’s President who can be re-elected after an intervening gap of a four-year term. Similar provisions apply to the Secretary General and Treasurer, all subject to an age ceiling of 70 years. However, there is no bar on rotating between Secretary General, Treasurer and Treasurer during the cooling-off period. What is even more interesting is that HI’s President is vested with the authority to nominate 5 Associate Vice Presidents and Associate Joint Secretaries each. Although such nominations are to be ratified by HI’s Executive Board, yet such nominees are also invitees to this Board.

HI’s accounts for 2013-14 and 2014-15 present interesting results. Its reserves and surpluses rose by 51% and its total sources of funds by 25% in 2014-15 over 2013-14. These resulted in an accretion of 23% to HI’s cash and bank balances, including rise of 19% in fixed deposit investments and near doubling of bank balances.

GoI grants to HI also rose by 25% while franchisee, broadcasting and sponsorship income rose by 26% although ticket collections were a very modest Rs. 48 lakh.

On the expenditure side, what is intriguing are hefty amounts of Rs. 1.89 crore paid toward legal fees and Rs. 5.76 crore toward payment of ‘commissions’. To whom and why were such large amounts paid? How was sponsorship, etc. rights awarded? Has HI submitted utilization certificates to the grant giving GoI agencies? Have the agencies caused any in situ verification of such certificates before subsequently releasing enhanced grants-in-aid?

Yet HI’s internal rules and regulations are quite detailed and available in the public domain. Then why are not those of DDCA?

The All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s 33 members do not suffer the infirmities of HI’s. However, its audit report for 2013-14 is disturbing. AIFF’s auditors questioned photocopied bills submitted by state associations for Rs. 2.09 crore, without any supporting documents, Rs. 93 lakh and cash payments of about Rs. 17 lakh. The same auditors had previously pointed out identical irregularities aggregating Rs. 11.16 crore in 2006-13. State associations too are not above board.

The auditors said that the West Bengal Sports Association that had received Rs. 50 lakh in 2009 had no covering documentation produced for the audit. Did this state association receive the grant at all? Likewise, Rs. 50.57 lakh received by AIFF from a foreign private broadcaster met the same fate. The Indian Football Association that had received aggregate Rs. 1.67 crore loans from AIFF claimed that their records were destroyed in a fire! The magnitude of patronage inherent in such federations is evident from the fact that AIFF garnered, from 2010-11 to 2013-14, garnered about Rs. 132.75 crore from sponsorship, broadcasting, etc. and Rs. 14.33 crore from grants-in-aid from GoI and its agencies.

AIFF doled out close to Rs. 31 crore for I-League and U-20 sponsorship plus Rs. 5 lakh each to I-League clubs and about Rs. 70 crore for the Indian Arrows, all in just two fiscals ending 2013-14. Add the largesse it provides to state associations, host of clubs, domestic tournaments, referees, umpires, budding footballers, etc. and the picture that emerges is of a galloping commercial enterprise with immense financial clout and concomitant patronage that has a former Union Civil Aviation Minister for its current President.

Like all other federations, AIFF too does not disclose the qualifications and sporting experience of its Governing Body members. Similarly, the Badminton Association of India has a Rajya Sabha MP for its President whom the Sabha’s web site describes as an “educationist, professor, business, industrialist, publisher and builder – quite a spectrum!

Sports and business make the nations’ most lucrative business proposition, after real estate and sale of armaments, psychotropic substances and illicit bootlegging. That is why India has politicians, civil servants and businessmen that often have little to do with a sport, rule the roost in nearly all sport federations/associations.

Registered as societies and Sec. 8 (Companies Act, 2013) non-profit companies, these bodies ‘elect’ the core that sets up these bodies and circulates between critical posts while keeping alive the fiction of separated tenures. Senior politicians, prominent businessmen and civil servants constitute the cabal of parallel governance away from the public eye. That is why it is convenient not to carry the CVs of office bearers and past members on official web sites, their portfolios over decades, etc. This core determines the Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA) that not only ensures rotation of the core between posts but also creates a periphery, comprising of official nominees whose state-level nominations are shrouded in opacity.

That explains why a current BCCI member also chairs a high-profile state lawn tennis association and is also a member of DDCA. This periphery that owes its nomination to these national federations is but only a façade that supports the core in exchange for patronage, in cash and kind for their kith and kin and favourites, be they coaches, budding players, linemen, pitch/field layers, menial O&M personnel, state level wannabe association members, lawyers, auditors, event managers, ad agencies, equipment suppliers and O&M contractors, and many more.

The core determines all critical decisions relating to finances, sponsorship, foreign trips, protocol expenses, publicity, legal and audit retainers, myriad more. It even appoints a well-recompensed scapegoat CEO for a failure-blame buffer. Commissions are regularly exchanged with sponsors whose selection cannot be verified for fairness. Ticket collections are often not commensurate with the huge sponsorship that these federations receive.

Is there a money laundering angle to such sponsorships? Grants-in-aid from the GoI are but a fraction of the annual budgets of these federations. Yet, Ministers and legislators with their favoured civil servants do not shy away from critical office bearers often to the point where court intervention forces an overdue professional demise. With such minuscule GoI grants-in-aid why are these federations such fertile hunting grounds for the influential core?

Indeed, the Supreme Court’s recent vacuum cleaning operation of BCCI has set the cat amongst the pigeons. All other apex sports bodies deserve identical treatment ASAP.

(The writer is a senior public policy analyst and commentator. His views are personal and not necessarily subscribed to by The Citizen)

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