India walking the tightrope of FIFA’s non-government interference policy

India fans

By Mark Baber

November 6 – India could face FIFA sanctions that would all but wreck their bid to host the U20 World Cup and could even lead to a suspension of the federation in the world’s second largest nation that was just starting to find its football feet.

FIFA has requested the All India Football Federation provide more details of a recent Delhi High Court ruling setting aside the elections which made Praful Patel AIFF president for the third time, as well as of the steps the AIFF intends to take regarding the matter.

The Delhi High Court ruled on October 31 that the AIFF elections of 20 December 2016, which saw Praful Patel re-elected, should be annulled and that fresh elections should be held within five months as the AIFF had violated the Sports Code. The court also nominated former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi to take charge of the affairs of the country’s football body for the time being.

A FIFA spokesperson said, “We can confirm that FIFA has today sent a letter to the AIFF requesting more information about Delhi’s High Court decision as well as the steps that AIFF intends to undertake in this matter.”

“FIFA has also reminded the AIFF that in accordance with art. 14 par. 1 Iet. i) and art‚ 19 of the FIFA Statutes all member associations, including the AIFF, are obliged to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties.”

The AIFF is expected to decide on their future course of action early this week in consultation with their lawyers.

The AIFF will be conscious that FIFA has a long, and somewhat arbitrary, history of applying sanctions, including suspension, for third party interference.

The dispute between the Indian courts and the AIFF revolves around the failure of the AIFF to follow the Indian Sports Code in the way it ran the elections of December 2016. The elections were controversial in a number of ways including that nominations were made on the basis of a pre-determined list prepared by AIFF bosses – with a total of 17 members elected to the executive committee unopposed.

FIFA has given considerable slack to the football authorities in India in the past, for instance in tolerating the presence of top tier rival leagues. FIFA also recently congratulated the country on its hosting of the under-17 World Cup – so it seems unlikely to benefit any of the parties involved for India to join its neighbour Pakistan in the international sin bin.

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