By any and all accounts, it’s been a difficult 12 months for sports in India. With an extremely sluggish economy partnering a controversy-ridden year in sports administration and overall governance, 2013 was arduous and 2014 has been more of the same. Allegations of unethical practices have hurt the sports sector, and above all else, it continues to remain unregulated at a time when accountability is clearly the buzz-word across industries.
India’s most famous sports property- the Indian Premier League (“IPL), courted controversy in its 6th season, and laid bare the ambiguity and chaotic administrative systems that govern ‘professional’ sports in India. The indignant response across all corners to the alleged match-fixing and illegal gambling activities during IPL 6 led to calls for a systematic overhaul. Even today, the proceedings against team owners and players are continuing, although it’s uncertain what the outcome will be. What is certain however is that Sports in India remain unregulated and seemingly operate independent for the most part of any legal jurisdiction.
The legislation that have been proposed remain at the draft bill stage. The draft National Sports Development Bill, 2013, and the draft Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, 2013, are now dormant in that they are unlikely to be introduced before Parliament until the national elections are completed, and the new government commences its duties. Unless the current government returns to form the cabinet, there is a strong likelihood that the issue of sports legislation in India will be re-opened and the two bills will likely be intensively revised before they are introduced in Parliament by the Sports ministry. So, the issue of transparency, governance and accountability will remain catchwords in sports, but there doesn’t seem to be any likelihood that they will be addressed at least until June. Sports legislation in fact have the most uncertain future, given that sports is a state subject under the Constitution of India. So, to introduce sports-related legislation due to prevailing national interest will require the full support of the central government at the time.
In an election year that is this uncertain, with no clear favourites emerging yet, there is greater risk for investing in, or sponsoring any sports-related activity in India, given that the risk quotient is prohibitively high. It’s understandable that sports in India need a significant stimulus in the form of foreign direct investment (“FDI”), but with the current political and