BFI gets Sports Ministry recognition; pro league plans awaited

MUMBAI: The final piece is in place for the hoops game to take off in the way envisioned in 2010 when IMG-Reliance signed a 30-year commercial rights contract with the then unified Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

On Wednesday, the K Govindraj-led BFI issued a letter to all affiliate units confirming that the Sports Ministry has now accorded official recognition to the federation. 

SportzPower has a copy of the note sent out to all affiliated members of the BFI by its secretary general Chander Mukhi Sharma dated 26th July, which reads: "We are happy to inform you that Basketball Federation of India led by Shri K Govindraj as president and the undersigned as its secretary general & Dr V Ragothaman as treasurer has now been recognized by the government of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports."  

The development comes a little under two weeks after the Indian Olympic Association, on July 13, granted affiliation to the Govindraj-led BFI.

So now, for the first time since March 2015, the BFI stands unified with official status from world body FIBA (which it has had from the time the federation split), the IOA and the government.

This also paves the way for IMG-Reliance to again engage with the federation and resume funding activities, including sponsorships, which it had suspended pending clarity on who runs the BFI.

It is worth noting that in July 2016, after over a year of unanswered requests and complaints, BFI filed a record of termination of the commercial rights agreement. A few months later, IMG-R responded by taking a court order against the BFI and bringing the matter under arbitration. 

Informed sources close to the developments tell SportzPower that the BFI will present all documents related to its official status as the national federation before the arbitrator next week. Once this has been done the way will be clear for IMG-R - to either resume funding of the BFI as per the original agreement or agree to terminate the partnership. 

As things stand, IMG-R can now move ahead on the stalled plan to launch a professional basketball league in the country, the inaugural edition of which can now be expected either next year or, at the latest, in 2019.  

As for what role the president of Maharashtra State Basketball Association, Poonam Mahajan, who headed the rival faction of the BFI, will play in the new scheme of thigs, SportzPower has been informed that she will become chairperson of the BFI, for which a general body meeting will have to be called and the federation's constitution suitably amended.

With the factional feuding resolved, the BFI is now in a very good position now to fast track any activities it may have on its agenda. The fact that Ms Mahajan is a Member of Parliament representing the ruling BJP also means that government clearances for upcoming projects will not get caught up in unnecessary red tape, other things being equal.