No clarity over CEO appointment, ‘patrons’ talks sore points in IOA 

It’s been more than three months now and there is no information on the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer. As of now, the joint secretary is discharging the duties of the CEO.
Indian Olympic Association logo. (File photo | olympic.ind)
Indian Olympic Association logo. (File photo | olympic.ind)

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is set to have its first annual general meeting after the elections in December on Saturday. The agenda is set but it will be interesting to see other developments that might transpire during the meeting.

It’s been more than three months now and there is no information on the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer. As of now, the joint secretary is discharging the duties of the CEO. The letter for the AGM too was signed by IOA joint secretary Kalyan Chaubey. Going by the letter, the National Sports Federations will be part of the AGM and there is a possibility that some state units may attend.

It is baffling that the IOA, the umbrella body for all affiliated NSFs, could not find a suitable candidate as of now. The newly-amended constitution says, “The IOA’s Executive Council shall appoint a Secretary General/CEO within 1 (one) month from the time such a position is vacated or is lying vacant due to any reason.” The constitution talks about a joint secretary taking over CEO’s responsibility but at the same time it says, “…a Joint Secretary shall function as the CEO until a new CEO is appointed within 60 days from the position being declared vacant.” It is understood that it has not found a suitable candidate as of now. In fact, this is one aspect that would complete the reform process. As of now the IOA has not announced a name and needs to be seen if it is keen on appointing anyone soon.

The most challenging part of their three-month-old tenure was the wrestlers' protests and setting up of the hearing panel. However, nothing much happened after that. The IOA is the highest sports body in the country, one with great responsibility and power. It had announced a seven-member committee after the country's top wrestlers including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya and Sakshi Malik, world championship medallists Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia had written to the IOA on January 20, to “immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment” against Wrestling Federation of India and its president. However, the wrestlers did not appear in the first hearing and later they had apparently told the IOA that they would want the oversight committee of the sports ministry to finish the hearing. As of now, there is no clarity from the IOA as to what happens to the committee. The IOA could have handled the issue more maturely and with more authority. After all, NSFs are affiliated with the IOA. Ideally, the enquiry should have been conducted by IOA.

There is another issue that can turn into a sore point. It is understood that during the executive committee last month, the IOA discussed naming patrons (at least five). A post that is not mentioned in the constitution and there have been occasions when the sports ministry objected to it and even the High Court had observed that such posts should not exist. This might even lead to amending the constitution. In any case, these positions, as of now, are expected to be more ornamental than decision-making. The names too seem interesting. Randhir Singh, former IOA secretary general with vast experience in sports administration; others are political leaders and an industrialist. Badminton Association of India president Himanta Biswa Sarma, Archery Association of India president Arjun Munda, All India Tennis Association chief Anil Jain and Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh. There are two advisors as well. It needs to be seen how the general house reacts. Hopefully, it should not reflect poorly on the administrative abilities of the sportsperson-turn-administrators.

The main agenda of the meeting is to pass the accounts of the IOA. “...consideration and passing of the audited statement of accounts for the financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21,” says the AGM notice. The accounts of the IOA have not been settled since 2019 because of the infighting between its former president and the former secretary general. The preparation for Asian Games and Olympics too may come up for discussion. Besides, the International Olympic Committee has announced the dates for its session in Mumbai — October 15-17.

The NSFs too are in a fix. The sports ministry has stopped funding them directly because of reasons best known to them. Though some believe that this arose out of various court orders last year that asked the ministry to stop funding unless NSFs follow the sports code. It needs to be seen how the IOA tackles this issue. All eyes will be on PT Usha-led, sportsperson-heavy administration and how they assert their independence and power.

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