All India Football Federation President, Praful Patel has said that the contentious Sports Code should ensure that National Federations were not pitted against their international parent bodies and it should be approved by Parliament if at all it has to be implemented.
Patel said he could not imagine AIFF going against FIFA or AFC guidelines in the pretext of adhering to the Sports Code.
“There are certain sets of FIFA and AFC rules, which AIFF has to follow and we cannot go against these guidelines. So, it will have to be ensured that NSFs don't go against their international federations while adhering to the Sports Code,” said Patel, who is also the Union Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
“Doing that could lead to disaffiliation by the international federations and we (the NSFs) will be the losers,” he said at the sidelines of 'Goal 2013' convention on the business of Indian Football organised by FICCI in association with the AIFF.
Patel said if at all the Sports Code will have to be implemented, it should be done after Parliamentary approval.
“The Sports Ministry should take into confidence all the NSFs and other stakeholders connected with the development of sports in the country. If at all the Code is to be implemented I favour doing it after approval by the Parliament and after consultation with the NSFs,” he said.
An earlier draft of the contentious Sports Code was rejected by the Cabinet during the time of then Sports Ministry Ajay Maken and the current incumbent Jitendra Singh has said that the government would not compromise on the Code.
The issue of the application of the Sports Code in the elections of the Indian Olympic Association has led to the suspension of the national apex sports body by the IOC.
Asked about the dropping of wresting from among the core sports for the 2020 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, which could dent the India's medal chances in the quadrennial mega event, Patel said, “As president of the AIFF I could feel the sadness and worry of the wrestling federation and fraternity in the country.”
“I sympathise with them and hope the sport comes back in the Olympics, said Patel.
Earlier, during his inaugural address to the convention, Patel said the AIFF would allow two clubs backed by Corporate sector in a bid to promote commercialisation of the game.
“Commercialisation of the game is the only way forward to raise its profile. So, we are allowing two clubs backed or owned by a Corporate house in the 2013-14 I-League season. But these two clubs will have to give an undertaking that they will invest in infrastructure development and will maintain separate commercial identity.
“We will tell them to build stadiums also. They will have to be given some time to do these things and so they will not be relegated for three years. Obviously since they are going to be backed by corporate houses they will have good players and they will do well and not be relegated,” he said.
The AIFF had faced problems in its bid to professionalise the game in the country as the I-League clubs had taken long time to comply with the AFC Club Licensing criteria, which would allow Indian clubs to feature in the AFC Champions League.
Out of the 14 teams competing in the current I-League season two clubs -- Air India and ONGC -- are certain to make an exit from the top division and the two corporate backed sides talked about by Patel are expected to fill in the vacant places.
“We have given too much leeway to the clubs and we are going to strictly adhere to the AFC club licensing criteria from next season onwards. Those clubs which do not fulfill the criteria will not be in the I-League next season.
“We are going to take decision very soon on the inclusion of the two corporate-backed sides in the I-League next season,” said Patel.
He also called on the Corporate sector to come forward and start taking interest in the commercialisation of the game.
“It will be difficult for Indian football to develop without the commercialisation of the game and the corporate sector will have to come forward and show more enthusiasm. There is a lot of potential for the corporate sector to benefit from the commercialisation of the game.
“Especially, the corporate sector should help in infrastructure development. I am going to use my good offices for a corporate house to adopt a football academy the AIFF is setting up. Two academies have started functioning and another five will do so next year. So our effort would be that each academy is adopted by a corporate sector,” he said.
Patel admitted that Indian football has lagged behind other countries due to lack of world-class infrastructure.
“Because of lack of infrastructure, Indian football has been lagging behind other countries after being the Asian power in the 1950s and 60s. Ever since our football has been declining, and we have lost crucial 30-40 years,” said Patel.
“In a big country like India there is not a single world-class football specific stadium. The Salt Lake Stadium in India is not a football specific stadium. Athletics events are held there and even A R Rehman concert was held there.
“The Sports Ministry has said the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi will exclusively be used for football but it is not a compact stadium, which is required and the norm worldwide.
“It is big challenge forward and a long haul for Indian football to become at least an Asian power. But things are going in right direction and the next 10 years should see football becoming the top sport in India,” he added.
Patel also said that the AIFF would organise a short tournament with city-based clubs on the lines of Hockey India League and Indian Premier League.
“HIL and IPL have been great success though I am not happy at cricket being the top sport in the country. So we are organising a short franchise base tournament so that players can earn good money from it and the game becomes visible in a big way through television,” he said.