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Home Guest Columns Who governs sports in India and what's its legal status?

Who governs sports in India and what’s its legal status?

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India has always been producing world-class sportspersons, albeit in small numbers for the past century. But with the surge in the sporting culture and change of outlook, more people are taking up sports as a career. 

Sports bring us together; it gives us joy, it brings disappointment, it creates several job opportunities, rings in money and much more. Any activity which impacts a large section of the society needs to be governed. So who governs sports in India?

In India, the Ministry for Sports and Youth Affairs, GoI is the supreme body to govern sports. But with more than 250 odd sports played in India across various age groups, it is impossible for the Sports Ministry to govern and run each sport at the micro-level. It is not pragmatic, logistically and administratively. But regulation is necessary. 

India's sports and youth affairs minister Kiren Rijiju
India’s sports and youth affairs minister Kiren Rijiju

Technically, it is the government of any nation which has to govern and regulate any sports activity. The parliament could do it via legislation or Acts, for example, we have the National Sports Development Code, 2011. In case when the government or its departments do not have the machinery to run/ govern systems, they regulate the activity in a delegated manner. Hence in India, the government has set up some guidelines for groups who on fulfilment of these guidelines and requirements could be given the status of being the National Sports Federation for that particular sport in the country. These guidelines have been improved and amended from time to time, and today all the NSF’s in the country have to adhere to the National Sports Development Code, 2011.

So what is the legal status of an NSF? What is its structure?

As per the guidelines laid down by the NSDC, a National Sports Federation has to be registered as a trust as per the norms of the Central Government or the respective State Government. Hence, any NSF is registered as a non-profit organization run by a group of individuals. Further, we have to understand the pyramid structure that an NSF generally has.

It starts from the district level for any state. Any given sport has to have a district body for itself. That is generally known as a district association. This is the first point of contact for anybody associated with that sport in that district. All the district associations come together to form a state body for that sport, and many such bodies from various states and union territories come together to form a national federation for that sport. 

All these organisations are registered as a trust with the Charity Commissioner and have to adhere to all the norms regarding accounts, meetings, transparency and funding, among others. The formation of the NSF could have a bottom to top or a top to bottom approach. The office-bearers of the district association could also be the office bearer at the State body, and those at the State body could also be elected as the office bearers at the National Federation. 

Once all these compliances have been achieved, these NSF’s can apply for recognition from the Sports Ministry and thereby be eligible for government funding. Once the Sports Ministry has recognised the NSF, they are solely responsible for conducting the various tournaments associated with that sport at all levels. These NSF’s are also responsible for the selection of players for the national and international events including the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Cups, etc. 

opening ceremny 2016 rio olympics
Opening Ceremony: 2016 Summer Olympics: Team India during Parade of Nations at Maracana Stadium.

Once these NSFs are recognised, they also have to adhere to strict doping norms set by WADA, and it is their responsibility to make sure that their athletes are dope free, and if in case there are any cases, the NSF has to take strict and immediate action. 

All the federations which are associated with Olympic sports come together to form the Indian Olympic Association, which is also an entity registered as a Trust. 

For most of us, our contact with the NSF comes when we win and qualify to play at the State and the National level. Most of the athletes do not know the structure or the office bearers of their own association. Many do not even understand the working, structure and accountability aspects that the NSF’s have to follow. This leads to altercations, issues, controversies and exploitation.

Hence it is imperative to know your own association, its structure, office bearers, as well as its mandates.

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