Renewed calls for polls at AIFF AGM; Praful forms panel

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MUMBAI: All India Football Federation president Praful Patel has announced the formation of a three-member committee to look into the legal aspects of AIFF elections of office bearers, which the federation has been kicking down the road citing legal problems for around 14 months now.

According to reports, Patel decided to form the committee during the AIFF's annual general meeting at a city hotel after several members raised the matter of the inordinate delay in elections. 

Patel said the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) president NA Harris will be one of the members of the committee, while the names of the other two will be announced later, Newsclick reports. The committee is expected to submit its report within 30 days.

The AIFF elections were due to be held in December 2020, but the federation has been dragging its feet, claiming that a legal case over its constitution is still pending in the Supreme Court. 

In December 2020, Patel completed his third four-year term as AIFF president and is now not eligible to continue as per not only the federation constitution, but also the National Sports Code.

Harris made the point to the news website that if - as per the version of the AIFF - the constitution of the body has temporarily been suspended and a new one is to be approved by the Apex Court, then under which rule has the AGM been called? 

He also said it is a pity that the AIFF spent close to Rs 3 crore on settling legal matters but has yet failed to secure anything concrete in more than four years.

Later, a member, who did not wish to be named, told Newsclick: “Our president has formed a committee, which is fine. We hope the elections are held and elected people take charge of the body. It is not right on the part of some people to continue in top positions even if their terms are over. This is in complete violations of FIFA, AIFF and national sports code. Let us see what kind of committee Mr. Patel forms finally.”

On less contentious matters, Patel opined: “We have already expressed our interest to host India’s group league matches for the final qualifying round of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 in June 2022, and we await a decision from AFC. 

“Furthermore, to compensate for the women’s team losing out a chance to showcase their skills in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, we are working to get an entry for them in an elite UEFA tournament.”

Patel also stated that the AIFF would be sanctioning a financial grant to the state associations soon. “Under exceptional circumstances, we did offer a Covid solidarity fund last year, and we will be working on our budget to stand with the state associations again this year,” he maintained.

But at the same time, the AIFF president also pointed to examples of support from governments of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, Kerala in a joint endeavour to take Indian football forward together. “I urge all state associations to impress their state governments and work closely with them. Football is a global sport, and we are indebted to the support coming from certain state governments,” Patel expressed.

“The National Centre of Excellence in Kolkata will be a professional house where we can house our national teams under one roof, and train,” Patel informed. “The Football Maharashtra Centre of Excellence CIDCO in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai is being developed by the Government of Maharashtra, and is on the same lines of the AIFF Centre of Excellence in Kolkata.”

The House also observed one minute’s silence as a mark of respect to legends of Football who passed away both in India, and at the global level.