India has 38 days to avoid a ban from international football. They have to finalise the new constitution by July 31. That’s the biggest takeaway after a series of meetings that took place in New Delhi through the course of this week.
Following a meeting with the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) and state football associations on Thursday, the seven-member FIFA and AFC joint delegation have said the new constitution of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) must be finalised by July 31.
Subsequently, the organisation’s Special General Body Meeting must be called by August 5, when the date of the elections should be finalised. The elections for the new president must be held by September 15, the world and continental bodies have said. Any deviation from these timelines could lead to India’s suspension from world football.
The saga began after the AIFF did not hold elections to appoint a new president within its set timeframe, owing to a logjam in finalising its constitution. This led to the Supreme Court appointing a three-member CoA, comprising ex-Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, former Supreme Court judge Anil Dave, and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly, to run the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF after finding them in violation of the Sports Code.
As a consequence, India risked facing action from FIFA, which saw this as a violation of their statutes, but instead of imposing an immediate ban, they decided to dispatch a delegation to the country.
Sources said that ahead of the meetings, the first of which took place on Tuesday, FIFA and AFC were convinced that the appointment of CoA amounted to external interference and were close to imposing a ban on India.
“However, after the meetings, they realised that the state associations were all on the same page and happy with the CoA,” the source said. “The CoA, too, has assured they will cooperate with FIFA and AFC and finalise the constitution within the set timeline.”
It is learnt that FIFA and AFC will monitor the drafting of the new AIFF constitution on a day-to-day basis to ensure it is aligned with their statutes. Once finalised, the constitution has to be presented to the Supreme Court by July 15 with the next hearing scheduled to take place on July 21.
The joint delegation, led by AFC general secretary Windsor John, concluded its three-day visit to New Delhi on Thursday. During this period, they held meetings with sports minister Anurag Thakur, the three-member CoA, former AIFF president and current FIFA Council member Praful Patel, officials from the AIFF and state associations, as well as representatives from the country’s top two divisions, the Indian Super League and I-League.
The finalisation of the constitution and conducting elections aren’t the only problems staring at AIFF at the moment. It is learnt that a forensic audit of the federation’s accounts is likely to take place after allegations of corruption surfaced against its officials.
On the eve of the FIFA-AFC visit, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das went on a ‘medical leave’, and on Thursday, the AIFF’s member associations unanimously named I-League CEO Sunando Dhar as the acting general secretary.