Giving the game away

Professionalism needs to be brought into sports administration. This may not yield immediate results in terms of sporting victories or medals, but it will enhance the performance and quality of Indian athletes.

There are several aspects of sports governance that need urgent reform. One, more former athletes and experts must actively participate in governance. Champions must be built. Talent must be found, skill sandpapered, techniques tuned and minds strengthened. This requires a relentless pursuit of greatness. Sports must be taken to the grassroots, and young people must be given opportunities to develop their talent.

We must make a clear distinction between administrators and experts, for sport has a managerial aspect and a training aspect. Former athletes don't always understand organisation, while administrators can't fathom the intricacies of the sport. Each must know his place. For far too long, Indian sports administrators have held on to their positions to serve vested interests; the athlete has been the last priority on their agenda. The time has come for a different type of sports administrator to enter the arena: one who has integrity, passion for the development of Indian sports and the athletes' interest foremost in his mind.

Sports governance must also deal with the matter of raising finances. In India, 98 per cent of all funding for international sports comes from the government. Why is there no private or corporate sponsorship? In the US, corporate sponsors provide 95 per cent of the funds. One of the main reasons that Indian Olympic sports federations do not attract private sponsorship is the lack of transparency in the governance of these bodies. No one is willing to be held accountable for the money.

Officials must be accountable for their entire tenure. Just like athletes, they too must face frequent performance reviews to evaluate their success in the development of the sport they preside over. This cannot always be measured in terms of medals, but in the enhancement in the standards of the sport and the participation of young athletes. Officials must organise programmes that enable sports to grow. They must provide opportunities for sports in schools and develop a club culture.

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