Supreme Court dissolves football CoA, paves way for FIFA to lift suspension

IN A verdict that paves the way for Indian football’s return to the international fold after a brief period of isolation, the Supreme Court on Monday dissolved the three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) it had appointed in May to look after the daily affairs of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

While handing over the day-to-day management of the federation to the AIFF administration, led by its acting secretary general Sunando Dhar, the apex court bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said in its order that the decision was taken in “national interest” so that the suspension is lifted and players are not affected.

“The mandate of the Committee of Administrators appointed by the order of this Court stands terminated,” a bench of Justices Chandrachud and A S Bopanna said in its order.

Since the suspension was announced on August 15, Indian Women’s League champions Gokulam Kerala were barred from competing in the Asian Club Championship; the men’s national team matches in September against Singapore and Vietnam have been cancelled; and, there was a risk that India would be stripped of hosting rights for the U-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

The Supreme Court order came after the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, late on Sunday, filed an application seeking an end to the “mandate” of the CoA, among other things, so that FIFA would lift the suspension imposed on AIFF. The court also postponed the date of the AIFF elections, originally scheduled for August 28, by a week. It said the electoral roll would only include representatives of state federations and union territories, excluding Indian internationals from the electoral roll, as proposed by the CoA but opposed by FIFA.

“The above instructions are adopted in modification of the previous orders to facilitate the lifting of the AIFF suspension and the hosting of the Under-17 World Cup to ensure the prestige of the country and the ability of the players to participate in international competitions. tournaments. intact,” the court said.

"If the above process has not been taken to its logical conclusions, the court will deal with the following orders," it said.

Advocate General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, earlier told the court that the immediate effect of the suspension is that India will lose the ability to host the Women's Under-17 World Cup - and the Indian team and its affiliated clubs will no longer exist. have the right to participate in international matches or competitions. Football started five years ago after a hitch in finalizing the AIFF constitution led to a delay in holding federation elections. In May, the Supreme Court mandated the CoA to run the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF, ending the 12-year tenure of its former chief Praful Patel.

After weeks of negotiations between the CoA, the government, the state federations as well as the world and continental football bodies, the Bureau of FIFA - made up of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six confederations - the AIFF was suspended in August. 14. .

FIFA cited third-party interference as the reason for the suspension, citing decisions taken by the CoA that affect the functioning of the federation, and said it violated its rules.

On 15 August, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said in a letter to Dhar that the suspension would only be lifted once the CoA's mandate was "completely revoked" and once the AIFF administration was "fully responsible" for its day-to-day operations. the day depends.

This was reiterated in an email to the Sports Ministry and Asian Football Confederation on August 20. In its communication, FIFA said: “…should both conditions for the lifting of the suspension, as foreseen in the Bureau of the FIFA Council decision dated 14 August 2022, be satisfied by the final order of the Hon Supreme Court next week, the FIFA administration will recommend to the Bureau of FIFA Council the lifting of the suspension with immediate effect.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court also said that the new executive council of the AIFF would consist of 23 members, of whom 17 members — including the president, treasurer, and one vice-president — will be elected by the representatives of the 36 state and union territories representatives. Apart from these 17 members, six eminent players (four men, two women) would be co-opted to the executive council with voting rights.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the CoA, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, claimed “there are findings of siphoning off” funds in an interim audit report of the AIFF, which has been submitted by Deloitte to the CoA. The court said the Government will take the final report into consideration once it is received.