FIFA’s decision to suspend the All India Football Federation was due to a “flagrant violation” of their rules against 3rd-party interference.
FIFA, (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has explained this in its letter to the AIFF. The letter also raises what needs to be done and what the suspension implies.
Why did FIFA suspend India?
1) Deviations in the roadmap: FIFA noted that there has been some deviation from the before agreed upon. Principle among them was the decision to include 36 eminent players in the electoral college, i.e. 50% of 72 total voters, for the purposes of voting in the AIFF elections.
FIFA wanted the eminent players’ representation to be limited to 25% of the electoral college. The three-member Committee of Administrators – Dr. SY Quraishi, Justice (retd) AR Dave and Bhaskar Ganguly – had prepared a draft constitution and sought comments from stakeholders, including FIFA before submitting it to the Supreme Court.
2) Third-party interference
FIFA also said that AIFF had been ordered [by the Supreme Court] to hold elections before the AIFF constitution was finalised, that there would be an interim mandate of three months before the constitution was finalised, and that the defined electoral college would include [former] players. FIFA also observed that the CoA would continue to play a role in this interim period.
All of this, they declare, is a “flagrant violation” of their rules against third-party interference [by political or judicial machinery of a country].
Can the Suspension Be Lifted?
According to FIFA, the instantaneous steps that need to be taken are:
Repeal of CoA mandate in full. This means the Supreme Court-appointed body loses control of the whole process – from elections to finalising the constitution.
AIFF administration to be put back in charge. The daily affairs are still being conducted by the administration that served under the former AIFF president, Praful Patel. This is a team led by Sunando Dhar who is now the acting general secretary of the Federation. If FIFA’s demands are accepted, Dhar and his administrators would take back full control of the functioning of the AIFF [till elections were held]. This means no more CoA.
Revision of the constitution in line with the requirements of FIFA and AFC while still being in line with the National Sports Code. They also stated that this needs to be approved by the AIFF General Assembly only, which is the assembly of state bodies. The state bodies had previously raised primary objections to the draft constitution.
This document had been prepared by the CoA and then sent to the state bodies for feedback, all of which had then been rejected including an objection raised on the following clause: “The senior-most league should be owned, operated, recognised and directly managed by the AIFF, that implements the principles of promotion and relegation.” This would have meant going against what had been agreed upon by AFC, AIFF and the clubs in a roadmap meeting held in 2019.
An Independent electoral committee. FIFA wants the elections for the AIFF to be run by a committee that is elected by the AIFF general assembly only.
Elections have to be conducted on the basis of the pre-existing structures. This means no votes for ’eminent players’ as decided by the CoA. The voting structure would go back to being from the state associations only.
Scheduled to be held across Odisha, Goa and Maharashtra in October this year, the Cup hosting privileges of India have been revoked. This tournament was initially meant to be hosted in 2020, but the pandemic had created a delay and subsequent cancellation of that edition. Now FIFA says they will continue to assess the next steps.
National teams and clubs banned from international competition
The Indian national teams – senior and junior, men’s and women’s, cannot take part in any AFC or FIFA-affiliated matches or tournaments till the suspension is lifted. This includes the 2023 Asian Cup and the qualification campaigns for future World and Asian Cups.
For clubs meanwhile, this means they cannot take part in any of the AFC run continental championships – the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup, and the AFC Women’s Club Championship. In fact, Gokulam Kerala are already in Uzbekistan for the latter, which they cannot now participate in. ESPN understands that no formal communication has reached Gokulam Kerala and that, as of now, they will be travelling to the venue on Wednesday, as planned.
No FIFA and/or AFC development programmes, courses or training
This comprises of FIFA’s funding, and grassroots development programmes they are running as well as any coaching licensing programme that requires AFC or FIFA accreditation. With the government already having sliced funding to the AIFF by 85%, this would put a severe constraint on the finances of the AIFF.
A ban placed on Pakistan in 2018 had been lifted only after FIFA’s demands were been met. This meant: that an administrator appointed by the Lahore High Court was directed to hand control back to the Pakistan Football Federation.
FIFA then banned Pakistan again in 2021 after a group of football officials, led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who was elected as PFF president in the 2018 elections sanctioned by the Supreme Court but not recognised by FIFA, took over the headquarters and seized control from the PFF Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA.
This ban was lifted last month after FIFA received confirmation that the normalisation committee had “regained full control of the PFF’s premises and was in a position to manage its finances.”
What is India Doing?
The Supreme Court will take up the case again on August 17 after the central government of India sought an urgent hearing on the matter past FIFA’s suspension of AIFF.