The bill that wasn’t

The draft National Sports (Development) Bill 2011 (Sports Bill) met with multi-pronged and vociferous opposition on Tuesday. For all intents and purposes, it will need to undergo more than just cosmetic surgery in order for it to be accepted and passed, but at the moment its future acceptance and enforcement seems unlikely. The intent behind the Sports Bill is commendable. It's clearly a good faith effort on the part of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to try and clean up the sports domain.

Unfortunately, an all-encompassing federal legislation such as this is more or less unprecedented from a global perspective, and that's not a good thing for supporters of the Sports Bill. India lacks the track record in sports to be able to effectively implement a blanket sports development bill on a national scale.

The Sports Bill itself has a variety of omissions and limitations. It is a work in progress, but extremely limited in its scope. For all intents and purposes, it deals primarily with regulating and structuring the National Sports Federations (NSFs), without really delving into how sports overall and the business of sports can be benefited. An important and valid concern is that key stakeholders have been left out from a decision-making perspective, as well as from a future role in developing and creating the business of sports. Sports as a lucrative industry and sporting excellence go hand in hand. The sports industry requires private-sector investment, and also professional management to ensure its growth and development. By omitting the private sector in the Sports Bill, the burden then lies with the state. There is an unfavourable climate vis-a-vis direct or indirect government involvement in sports — the Commonwealth Games is a prime example. To presumably bring the management of sports directly or indirectly under the ambit of the sports ministry, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the NSFs, isn't necessarily a convincing step forward. Especially since professional management isn't the public sector's strong suit.

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