Saturday 25 May 2013

Anatomy of Indian Sports Governance

 Around the time of August in 2010, while I was working in Delhi at Commonwealth Games (CWG), i first witnessed the uneasiness surrounding the preparation of the games and competition. It was just the beginning, watching Times Now expose several irregularities; weeks before the games began and yet with each accusation surfaced the CWG went on. Personally, i credit the success of execution during Games time to the entire workforce who gave more than their best to ensure not all was bad. They just wanted to their job irrespective of the hurdles and each one deserved a medal for the efforts.

 The CWG incident summed up a quote from a T-shirt I had picked up in Delhi. The occasion was perfect to flaunt it; more than a personal statement, i felt the atmosphere was just right to wear the quoted tee. “Come to India, one billion people can’t go wrong” – the quote went something like that. It did catch many eyes and even got comments on that being a nice shirt. Yes, i knew the white round neck T-shirt of mine was good because of the quote. Such is the power of words, when used can create ripples. Alright, that might be a bit stretchy, but atleast it held attention. A lot of foreign work staff, including many of my colleagues were waiting for the games to be completed in order to rush back to their homes; for them the holiday of exploring India besides work was over. The constant scrutiny of the games was just too hot to handle coupled with the Delhi heat. The work culture of few people determined the way Indians worked in general. It was tough, but we went on.
Tantra's Shirt
 And so, CWG turned out to be the best ever India could manage with the resources and people we had at that time. Indian Athletes won medals, Delhi infrastructure improved slightly, a lot of the workforce got their life lessons and they moved on once the curtains were drawn to the event.

 Not all was pleasant after all and this was solely on the part of governance. Call it corruption, mismanagement or whatever that comes to one’s mind – it is all part of governance. I learnt a lesson or two in governance from the Commonwealth Games.

 The publicity the event gathered was in foreign media and mind you, even the non-commonwealth nations found it interesting. How a country with billion people can go wrong when it came to governing a sports event?  Well, it did and simply because India has no sporting tradition of hosting international events except for playing. There was never a priority from the Government to include Sports in their bucket list and rightly so. Even more appalling is the fact that, there were few attempts to change the mindset. I felt in 2003, hosting CWG will pave a way for all-round sports culture in India. Only few bricks were removed from the wall of bad governance and it magnified in 2010 when media was penetrative more than ever before.

 If only Olympic and non-cricket Sports had money, they would have been different. Allegations consistently on cricket administration was heard regularly, but it could manage as the game developed with better infrastructure and more money for the players. But the question of governance remained and remains untouched to this date.

 There were visionaries in Indian Sports setup but perished because of the system, as the might of rival faction was just too strong to counter. Very few start their professional careers thinking they will be corrupted for rest of their lives. The decision makers are honorary and hence unaccountable.

 The people (non-decision makers and paid staff) who chose to remain silent will be silenced forever and they will be in the setup only for the execution of the task. Though they don’t need to agree to a lot of things that happen, they earn their wages to survive in India. So the stage is set for the battle of egos. Simple men with vision are blindfolded forcefully or the victims choose to remain blindfolded only because they do need that ‘extra’ tension in their lives. Tell me, what are the odds of David winning against Goliath - One in ten?

Is it assuring to be with those nine men than wage a sole battle? It comes down to choice and the vision of an individual.

 Now, to governance part – I am open to an individual who can wear multiple hats as long as his intentions are clear and clean when it comes to decision making. Multiple hats dims one’s thought process in passing important regulations. Heading a sports organisation is a voluntary job and only established business men or a politician can easily don that hat. Why are such individuals voted into the system?

 Is it because of the influence they can generate among many Government, public and private sectors in getting the necessary permissions? Do they help athletes in securing a job in one of these sectors simply by their name appearing in the recommendation letter or by means of a humble phone call? While one cannot ignore these facts or benefits they provide for less privileged sports, my question is – Should such favours be made only if they head the organisations?

 The saga will continue but who will own the moral hat when there is suspicion. A leader is the one who steps down and comes back after proven innocent. Sadly, in India if the judicial process would be swift we could have seen many instances of people being suspended upon inquiry. I lament, it is not so. Hence we have the organisation heads refusing to step down and will go out only when forced out.

 Crisis is part of everyday life and so that doesn’t mean events must be stopped or banned. India went ahead with CWG for the sake of Sports alone, and two years later had a successful London Olympics (when compared with past Indian performances). Cricket too will move on amidst all this mess - But at what cost?

 I wish to see a day where the heads of the organisation communicate and state the facts ardently. Money and grants allocation for non-cricket sports can be made only if there is a willingness to create a plan for the Sports development. India is blessed with such a population that many private establishments are getting involving in development of sports. Yes, India is a land of more than one billion and not all of them will be wrong. But those few who create such ‘wrong perception’ come from the influential and political category and that is the worrying sign. Private firm can do only much unless there is the administration heads of sports work with alacrity.

 Will there be smart administrators who can look beyond and interpret rightly the Buddha’s saying of ‘Living in Present’? Coz, acknowledging and solving the present problems can only help the Sports Industry better. 

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