Conflicting regulations causes problems for Olympic Sports Governing Bodies in India

By Manali Kulkarni

After being officially recognized by the International Boxing Association (AIBA)1,2 in November this year, Boxing India (BI) has been waiting tentatively3 to see if it will also be recognised by the previously critical Indian Olympic Association (IOA).4

Pursuant to Part 3 of Article 27 (detailed below) of the Olympic Charter, the IOA’s recognition is necessary in order for BI to participate in Olympic events (or events patronized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)5). Article 29 of the Olympic Charter (set out below) outlines the criteria national sports federations must meet to be recognized by their National Olympic Committee (NOC).6

At the IOA AGM on December 19, the BI’s application for recognition was rejected.7 The IOA president, N Ramachandran, explained that the IOA reached their decision as follows:8

  1. The IOA felt that approving the BI was a unilateral decision by the AIBA, and was done without involving the IOA. When the IOA wrote to the AIBA to attend the BI elections and decide whether or not to approve BI, the AIBA rejected this proposal and stated that the AIBA would be the deciding body on BI’s recognition. The IOA sees the AIBA’s decision to recognize BI as an imposition and infringement on the IOA’s rights as a the national olympic governing body;
  2. The IOA received several complaints9
  3. There was not an IOA representative at the BI elections and thus the IOA does not feel it can approve BI;
  4. Importantly, the IOA held that it still recognizes the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) as the governing body10 for Indian boxing, and explained that the IABF will conduct national events going forward with the IOA ad hoc committee11 assisting as needed.

The IABF was suspended in December 2012 by the AIBA to which it is no longer affiliated. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (“Sports Ministry”)12 derecognized the IABF in April 2014 for not complying with re-election directives.13

 

The complexity of the recognition process

Notwithstanding the merits of the IOA and the AIBA’s respective decisions regarding the status of BI, an important point arising out of this absurd situation is the complexity of the recognition requirements placed on boxing’s national governing body in India. The complexity becomes apparent if we look side-by-side at the rules and regulations of the different “recognising” bodies, namely (1) the International Federation, AIBA (and its Statutes and Bylaws); and (2) the Olympic committees, the IOC (and the Olympic Charter) and the IOA (and its Constitution).

Article 29 18 of the Olympic Charter states, “To be recognised by an NOC and accepted as a member of such NOC, a national federation must exercise a specific, real and on-going sports activity, be affiliated to an IF recognised by the IOC and be governed by and comply in all aspects with both the Olympic Charter and the rules of its IF.”

BI have met the AIBA recognition criteria. However, although BI submitted the membership application required under the Article 419 of the IOA Rules and Regulations, any application is “subject to approval by the General Assembly”.

 

An Unsatisfactory Situation

The peculiar (and obviously entirely unsatisfactory) result of the IOA’s decision is that the relevant NOC for Olympic purposes (the IOA) and the relevant International Federation (IF) for boxing (the AIBA) each now recognize different bodies as the national sports federation (NSF) for boxing in India.

Article 1.220 of the Bye-Law to Rules 27 and 28 states: “...An NOC shall not recognise more than one national federation for each sport governed by an IF….

This article requires the NOC to only recognize one NSF for a sport governed by the IF. As a complement to Article 1.2 in the Bye-Law to Rules 27 and 28, Article 29 of the Olympic Charter requires the potential NSF seeking membership to be affiliated with the IF. The affiliation of NSFs to an IF is a required criteria to be recognized by any NOC.

With this, the IOA argued that it decided to recognize the IABF regardless of AIBA issuing full membership rights to the BI. Consequently, it seems the IOA’s continued recognition of the IABF does not meet the criteria for membership approval under the Olympic Charter as the IABF is not affiliated with the AIBA.

 

Recent Developments

1. AIBA President responds to the IOA’s decision

As of December 23, 2014, AIBA President, Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu21, advised the IOA to approve BI as the national governing body for Indian boxing, because the decision not to recognize BI is a violation of Article 29 of the Olympic Charter (explained above).22

The IOA repeatedly mentioned that even without an IOA or government representative at the BI elections, the AIBA still proceeded with the process and recognized BI. The IOA also recently noted that BI is not under the Societies Registration Act23, which any organization “beneficial to the community” is required to formally register under to be officially recognized by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA)24 of the Indian Government.25

With these hesitations, the IOA expressed the possibility of holding fresh elections to reinstitute the IABF as the national governing body for boxing with approval from the Sports Ministry.26,27 Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu responded by explaining that approving a national governing body is first left to the IF’s ( here the AIBA) discretion, before the national governing body can be considered for Olympic recognition. Thus, the AIBA’s decision to recognize BI is not determined by the IOA’s or government’s stance on the issue. In that, the AIBA is not required by its regulations nor the Olympic Charter to include the NOC (here the IOA) or relevant government body in the election or recognition process of a national governing body.28

2. Boxers decide about competing in the Boxing Championships and National Games

The most concerning effect of the IOA’s decision not to recognize Boxing India is the boxers and officials possibly not competing in the upcoming National Games.29

Following its meeting on December 29, BI announced that the National Boxing Championships will be held from January 9 to 15 in Nagpur.30 At the December 29 meeting BI also addressed participation in the National Games31, which are scheduled to take place from January 31 to February 14 in Kerala.32

BI was reportedly planning to sanction any boxer, selected by the IOA ad hoc committee, who chose to compete in the National Games. These boxers would not be able to compete in international competitions.33 However, BI explained that no such action will be taken against boxers choosing to participating in the National Games. BI has left the decision on whether to support BI or IOA up to the boxers, and confirmed that those who choose to participate in the championships will qualify for the National Games as their entry applications will be submitted through BI.34,35

Some of India’s renown boxers, such as Vijender Singh, Manoj Kumar, and Pinki Jangra, have confirmed that they will be competing in the National Games regardless of the dispute underway between the IOA and BI.36 Kumar explained that he will competing in both the senior men’s national championship, organized by BI, as well as the National Games, under the IOA.37

It should be noted that participation in the National Games is determined by membership fee payment status with the IOA, pursuant to Article 6b38 of the Rules and Regulations of the IOA. In that, the National Games fall under one of the IOC patronized events, open to only those national sports bodies approved by the IOA. 

A related concern is that of the organizational aspect of the upcoming National Games. IOA-appointed Games Technical Conduct Committee (GTCC) has worked closely with national sports bodies who are approved by the IOA, and were also planning to coordinate with BI for this technical support before any news on the IOA's decision. The GTCC was looking to the AIBA-approved body, BI, for helping in finalizing the competition director, referees, and judges, as well as obtaining the Computerized Scoring Systems. However, without IOA approval, it remains unclear how the GTCC should proceed for upcoming tournaments.39

 

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About the Author

Manali Kulkarni

Manali Kulkarni

Manali is the COO at LawInSport and executive contributor of the editorial board for LawInSport. She holds an LLM in Sports Law from Nottingham Law School (Nottingham Trent University).

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