- SPORTS LAW UPDATES
A. SPORTS FEDERATIONS/ ASSOCIATIONS
i. Non-compliance by National Sports Federations (NSFs) of the provisions of National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 (Code).
a. All India Football Federation (AIFF): Appointment of a Committee of Administrators (COA) by Supreme Court (SC).1
A 3-member COA has been appointed by the SC to manage the affairs of the AIFF and ensure that the AIFF constitution is adopted in compliance with the Code and model guidelines. The COA, upon its' appointment, recommended a 12-member advisory committee to assist the COA. However, the delegation of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and AFC, in a meeting with the COA, rejected the formation of the said advisory committee citing the reasons such as the involvement of an advisory committee amounting to 'third-party interference' in the working of the AIFF, which would be in violation of Article 14 Paragraph 1, Article 19 Paragraph 1 of the FIFA Statute, thereby, disbanding the committee. Further, to avoid facing immediate ban by FIFA, the AIFF has been directed to finalise a new constitution by July 31st; conduct its Special General Body Meeting by August 5th; and conduct the elections for appointment of president by September 15th.
b. Hockey India (HI) - Appointment of COA by the Delhi High Court (DHC).
The DHC has placed HI under a 3-member COA to run its day-to-day affairs after observing that the federation has violated the Code.2 The judgement is in light of the petition filed challenging the appointment of the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Mr. Narinder Batra, as a life member of HI. The DHC observed that such life membership was ultra vires the Code, and as a result the DHC constituted the COA, headed by former SC judge, AR Dave, along with former Chief Election Commissioner, SY Quraishi, and ex-Indian hockey team captain, Zafar Iqbal, as members, to offer assistance in the preparation and adoption of the Constitution of the Executive Committee in accordance with the provisions of the HI's Constitution, as proposed.
c. All India Chess Federation (AICF) - SC allows the AICF Secretary to continue till the Chess Olympiad, 2022.
The DHC held3 that the position of Secretary, Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan, has been filled on the basis of an invalid election, and ruled that the AICF had violated the model guidelines under the Code. The DHC further observed that the Mr. Chauhan had been occupying the post for the past 17 years when the limit for the administrative position has been set to a maximum of 8 years. Further, Mr. Chauhan had not fulfilled the criterion of attaining the two-third of the majority out of the 64 votes polled during the election. Being aggrieved by the order, Mr. Chauhan filed an appeal in the SC; wherein the SC observed that the India was hosting the Chess Olympiad from 28.07.2022 to 10.08.2022 and a change in the administrative position would adversely affect the smooth organization of the Olympiad. It is also pertinent to mention that the SC held that the DHC had not provided sufficient time to the parties to file their reply and hence, reinstated Mr. Chauhan as the interim Secretary until August 15th 2022 and directed the DHC to overlook the election after the parties had filed their replies.
d. Taekwondo Federation of India (TFI) - DHC orders fresh elections for the Executive Committee of the TFI and MYAS to thereafter recognize the TFI.
The DHC passed an order4 appointing a Court Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer to conduct fresh elections to the executive committee of the TFI. The DHC opined that due to the absence of a recognized NSF for the discipline of Taekwondo, players are not being awarded the opportunity to represent the country in international events, causing the sport to suffer. The DHC directed, that upon the elections being held, the MYAS should take necessary steps for the recognition of the NSF for the sport of Taekwondo.
ii. New Financial Sustainability Regulations have been introduced by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)5.
The UEFA Executive Committee has approved the new UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Sustainability Regulations to help the clubs to address these unchartered challenges. These regulations are the first major reform of UEFA's finance regulations since they were introduced in 2010; and are now in effect since June, 2022.
iii. FIFA is preparing to launch an Online Platform for handling Legal Proceedings6.
As part of its ongoing commitment to modernising FIFA's regulatory framework, FIFA will launch the FIFA Legal Portal, an online platform through which proceedings can be held before the relevant FIFA Football dispute resolution tribunal which encompasses the Dispute Resolution Chamber, Player's Status Chamber and the Agents Chamber. The FIFA Legal Portal will enable the football players to lodge a claim with the relevant FIFA decision-making body and will replace the current email communication system. The notification of communications, submissions, decisions and other documents will be handled through the FIFA Legal Portal, which aims to ensure simple, secure and transparent communication between FIFA and the parties involved.
iv. Temporary Employment Rules to be Extended by FIFA to address issues relating to War in Ukraine7.
This decision follows the Regulations on the Status of Transfers of Players' (RSTP) amendments approved by the Bureau of the Council on 7th March 2022 and 16th March 2022, which provided urgent legal certainty and clarity on a number of important regulatory matters. Under the RSTP provisions, should clubs affiliated to the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) or the Football Union of Russia (FUR) not reach a mutual agreement with their respective foreign players and coaches on or before 30th June 2022, and unless otherwise agreed in writing, these players and coaches will have the right to suspend their employment contracts with their clubs until 30th June 2023. These provisions give players and coaches the opportunity to train, play and receive a salary, while protecting Ukrainian clubs and facilitating the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia.
v. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announces ban on players from Russia and Belarus from Wimbledon 20228.
The organiser of the Wimbledon Championships, the AELTC, announced a ban on the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in the 2022 Wimbledon Championships in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. AELTC said that the ban was imposed in accordance with the United Kingdom government's guidelines for sporting bodies on measures to limit Russia's influence in sports and to prevent sports platforms from being used for state propaganda by Russia. AELTC's decision received criticism from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), the principal organizing bodies of men's and women's professional tennis, respectively. Russian and Belarussian players are currently allowed to participate in ATP and WTA events but are barred from competing under the name or flag of their countries. In May, the Chief Executive of the WTA threatened to impose sanctions against Wimbledon as the decision was a breach of the prevailing Grand Slam and WTA rules, as a result of which the ATP Ranking points were removed from Wimbledon for 2022.9
vi. Policy pertaining to Transgender Athletes.
a. The International Swimming Federation (FINA) - FINA has voted to approve a new policy that will restrict most transgender athletes from competing in elite women's aquatics competitions10. The policy states that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of female-to-male gender-affirming hormone treatment will only be eligible to compete in women's competitions if the testosterone was used for less than a year in total, the treatment did not take place during puberty and testosterone levels in serum are back to pre-treatment levels.
b. The International Rugby League (IRL) - The IRL announced that transgender women who had experienced male puberty could not compete in women's events, unless they began medical treatments to suppress production of testosterone before going through one of the early stages of puberty, or by age 12, whichever occurred later.
c. The German Soccer Federation (GSF) - GSF passed a new regulation for gender non-confirming players with civil status 'diverse' or 'unspecified', allowing them to decide for themselves, whether to play in men's or women's teams. The said regulation also applies to transgender players who can now switch at a self-determined time or remain initially in the team in which they'd been playing previously. The rules take effect in the coming season and will be incorporated into the GSF's game regulations for youth, futsal and amateur football.11
vii. International Skating Union (ISU) raises minimum age limit to 1712.
ISU voted to raise the minimum age for senior competition to 17, months after an Olympics drug scandal involving teenage Russian Kamila Valieva. Figure skater Valieva, then 15, was allowed to compete at February's Beijing Winter Olympics despite failing a drug test beforehand but broke down after falling multiple times during her final performance. The ISU said that raising the age limit was on its agenda well before the Valieva case and acknowledged it had a duty of care to elite adolescent athletes.
2 Aslam Sher Khan vs Union of India & Ors., WP 5703/2020 (Delhi High Court).
3 Case No. LPA 362/2022 & CM APPL.25663/2022, CM APPL. 25664/2022, Delhi High Court.
4 Anish Das Talukdar (Minor) vs Union of India, W.P.(C) 11674/2019, CM APPL. 11089/2022 (directions) & CM APPL. 18879/2022 (S. 11,12 of Contempt of Court Act). Order dated 30/05/2022.
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