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FIFA announces suspension of AIFF: From Praful Patel’s sacking to losing Under-17 Women’s World Cup hosting rights, how it happened

"The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs," FIFA's official statement read.

On August 16, Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and cited ‘third party’ intervention as the reason.

In its official statement, FIFA said, “The Bureau of the FIFA Council has unanimously decided to suspend the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes.

The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs.

The suspension means that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022, scheduled to take place in India on 11-30 October 2022, cannot currently be held in India as planned. FIFA is assessing the next steps with regard to the tournament and will refer the matter to the Bureau of the Council if and when necessary. FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved.

India was supposed to host U-17 Women’s World Cup from October 11-30 this year. However, following the suspension, the chances of hosting the event now seem bleak.

Timeline of the events

Since May this year, a lot has happened in the world of Football in India that led to the suspension announced on August 16. Here is a timeline from the Supreme Court order ousting Praful Patel.

On May 18, 2022, the Supreme Court of India relieved Praful Patel from the post of AIFF President as he had completed the maximum permitted tenure of 12 years as per the Sports Code. However, as there were pending cases in the Apex Court regarding its constitution, fresh elections could not be held since the completion of his third term in December 2020. In May, the apex court appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to manage AIFF. The CoA was also asked to draft the constitution for the same body.

On May 29, 20222, Dr SY Qureshi, a CoA member, announced that the new AIFF constitution would be in place by the end of September this year.

On June 11, 2022, a meeting was held between CoA and members of affiliated units to discuss the elections at AIFF at the earliest as per the national sports code, FIFA, and AFC statutes.

On June 21, 2022, a meeting was held between visiting FIFA-AFC team and CoA. A 12-member advisory committee was formed to oversee the day-to-day functionalities of AIFF. The committee was asked to send regular updates to CoA members for information and approvals.

On June 23, 2022, the FIFA delegation left with an assurance that the new constitution would be completed by July 31 and the elections would be held by September end.

On July 6, 2022, a meeting between CoA and a seven-member committee representing State Associations of AIFF was held to discuss the draft constitution.

On July 16, 2022, the final draft of the AIFF constitution was submitted to the Supreme Court for approval.

On July 18, 2022, it was reported that the state units of AIFF were not happy with some provisions in the final draft of the constitution. However, they were ready to find a middle ground in order to avoid any possibility of a ban by FIFA. Notably, state associations had written to FIFA that some clauses in the final draft of the constitution were “discriminatory and illogical.”

On July 21, 2022, the Apex court asked the state associations and CoA to file objections to the proposed constitution.

On July 26, 2022, FIFA recommended AIFF should have 25 per cent representation from the eminent player in the Executive Committee as co-opted members instead of 50 per cent as mentioned in the draft constitution. In a letter, it said, “Although we agree that players’ voice needs to be heard, we are also of the view that the importance of the existing members of the AIFF should not be undermined. To bring in 50 per cent of the members in the Congress structure is not a prudent idea, and the AIFF should seek to be more diverse in the future.”

On July 28, the Supreme Court set a date for hearing on AIFF elections to August 3 and mentioned that the priority would be hosting the Women’s Under-17 World Cup. Justice DY Chandrachud remarked that though the court could not finalize the entire committee, it could issue directions for the elections.

On August 3, 2022, the Apex court issued an interim order and asked AIFF to hold and conclude elections to ensure smooth hosting of the Women’s Under-17 World Cup in October 2022. The court approved a 27-day time for the election schedule. The court directed AIFF to hold elections to the executive committee by forming an Electoral College consisting of 36 representatives of state football associations and 36 eminent players.

On August 6, 2022, FIFA threatened the suspension of AIFF and cancelled the rights to host the Women’s U-17 World Cup, and cited third-party influence as the reason.

On August 7, 2022, CoA reassured FIFA that the process of setting AIFF in order was on track. It also slammed the ousted president Praful Patel for approaching FIFA to suspend the national body.

On August 11, 2022, it was reported that CoA had filed a petition in the Supreme Court accusing Praful Patel of “arranging” a letter from FIFA and AFC threatening a ban on India. CoA urged the apex court to ban Patel from “holding any football-related posts forthwith, including and not limited to positions in FIFA and AFC.” Notably, Patel is a member of the Executive Council of FIFA and Vice-President at AFC.

CoA said, “What is worse, and which is the primary cause for the present Contempt Petition, is the continuing central role of Mr Praful Patel, ex-President of AIFF, who has impliedly admitted to having arranged for the letter from FIFA-AFC and has conducted a meeting of the 35 Intervening Member Associations on August 6, 2022, with the express purpose of interfering with the proceedings of his Hon’ble Court.”

On August 13, 2022, the poll’s returning officer Umesh Sinha rejected the nominations of Veteran administrators Subrata Dutta and Larsing Ming as they had been on administrative posts for three terms already.

On August 15, 2022, FIFA informed the Sports Ministry of India about its opposition to the inclusion of individual members in the electoral college for the AIFF elections. Earlier in July, FIFA had expressed similar concerns.

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