After ‘Third-party Interference’ Controversy, CoA Writes to FIFA; Blames Praful Patel for Current Mess

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The controversy over “third-party interference” in matters concerning the All India Football Federation (AIFF) seems to be a never-ending one.

On Friday (August 5), the international football federation (FIFA) and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had sent an email to the acting AIFF general secretary raising the issue of “deviation” from the “roadmap” for getting the new AIFF constitution in place and threatened a ban.

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Expressing its surprise, the AIFF has written back to FIFA-AFC stating that the federation has noted the concerns expressed in their email and the federation is awaiting the printed copy of the Supreme Court order dated August 3 to apprise FIFA-AFC of what all has taken place.

“We are in receipt of your above email dated 05.08.2022 and have noted the concerns that you have raised. We were surprised to receive it only this afternoon and were awaiting the printed copy of the Supreme Court Order dated 03.08.2022 in order to apprise you of what has taken place, but we found that copies of your email have already been published in the national newspapers at considerable embarrassment to us,” the AIFF mail said.

The mail further said that the AIFF understands that it has been made to appear that there has been a non-adherence to the guidelines laid down by FIFA, but it regrets to say that perhaps the correct position has not been placed before the global and continental football governing bodies by whoever gave them the information regarding the hearing.

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The AIFF mail said, “You may recall that by way your letter dated 01.07.2022, you sought:

Readying the Constitution by 31.07.2022
Members of AIFF to approve the statutes in the first week of August
Elections be held by 15.09.2022

The mail went on to add that all the correspondence with FIFA-AFC has been placed before the Supreme Court of India and the apex court is fully apprised of their concerns, particularly with reference to the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

This matter has, therefore, been treated with the greatest seriousness, both by the government of India and the country’s highest judicial authority, AIFF said.

“All the correspondence with you has been placed before the Supreme Court of India and the court is fully apprised of your concerns, particularly with reference to the Under-17 Women’s World Cup. This matter has, therefore, been treated with the greatest seriousness, both by the government of India and the country’s highest judicial authority. You may recall that issues with the administration of AIFF, including questions about the misuse of funds and the presence of ineligible office-bearers, led to the present intervention by the court,” AIFF said.

Giving a detailed account of how the “roadmap” proposed by FIFA-AFC was followed, the mail went on to say that it is a fact that the previous constitution is still in place, and so AIFF stands constitutionally governed even today.

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The order of the Supreme Court dated 18.05.2022 noted that the normal tenure of the elected body of AIFF had come to an end on 20.12.2020, but it continued to handle its affairs for a further two-and-a-half years with no objection from the members.

Dismayed by this turn of events, the court directed that until fresh elections are held, the undersigned (the current Committee of Administrators — CoA) would administer the governance of the federation.

The AIFF mail added that it has learnt that the ex-president of the federation, Praful Patel (who is also a member of the FIFA council), had written to the FIFA president on 23.05.2022 following his removal, intimating that a suspension of the federation is a likelihood as FIFA-AFC would treat the court’s intervention as third-party involvement.

“It perhaps would not be appropriate for a person who has profited from presiding over Indian football for over 16 years without any tenure limits or other controls to suggest that the federation be suspended merely because he has been removed from the post he had illegally occupied. In fact, the third-party interference would now take place if the members’ desire to have the court’s timelines honoured is not accepted,” AIFF said in its reply.

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“Indian football has a small group of detractors who seek to serve themselves at the cost of the sport and its players who are dear to all of us. We have faced instances in the past when some of these had sought to mislead institutions to undermine the proper functioning of the AIFF. In some instances, criminal investigations have been lodged which are obviously unpalatable to those who are the accused,” the AIFF mail informed FIFA-AFC.

Finally, the mail assured that the interests of Indian football are being well served and the U-17 Women’s World Cup will remain completely unaffected, a fact taken note of by the Supreme Court and upon which guarantees have been furnished by the Prime Minister of India. At the same time, it urged the FIFA-AFC to write directly to the CoA in future so that there can be no delay or miscommunication.

Incidentally, the FIFA-AFC email was addressed to the acting general secretary of AIFF, Sunanda Dhar, who was initially appointed by the CoA but later on authorised through a resolution passed by the member associations dated June 23, 2022, as the FIFA-AFC had objected to the appointment made by CoA. But the reply to FIFA-AFC has been made by the members of the CoA.

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