India introduced a new Sports Policy in 2001 replacing the last sports policy created in 1984. The policy aimed to promote India’s competitiveness at a global level, to achieve greater athletic excellence. However, even after the implementation of the policy, many issues relating to the competition have arisen, in both performance & business aspects.
This article aims to analyze the Indian Sports Policy in light of the competition law in India, to understand its implications on the sports field.
India’s Sports Policy:
National Sports Policy 2001 was resolved in both houses of parliament. The policy focused on Board basing of sports & its integration with education. The main objective was to take Indian sportsmen & women to compete at a global stage. India was lacking the required sports infrastructure and in order to solve these problems, the policy was initiated.
The policy recognized the National Sports Federation & Indian Olympic Association as the primary bodies responsible for the development of sport in India by mentioning in Para 12:
“12. It is recognized that the management and development of Sports are the function of the Indian Olympic Association and the National Sports Federations, which are Autonomous Bodies and who, in turn, have affiliated State level and District level Associations.”
This means that these organizations already exercise a monopoly in India in certain fields. However, many other countries have such bodies, but many problems started to arise with these government organizations starting to formulate rules which favour them instead of the sportspersons.
Issues In Respect To Competition Law:
One such example is the case, the Department of Sports, MYAS v. Athletics Federation of India(AFI), where the AFI acted against the people who organized sports events against its approval. Competition Commission of India recognized AFI as a dominant force in the market but did not hold it liable for the abuse of its power on the grounds that the decision taken by AFI was not implemented & 90 per cent of the events are already organized without the approval of AFI.
Looking at the situation we must realize that there are many more bodies that organize marathons such as Run India, Procam International, India Running, et cetera, which shows that despite the dominance of AFI, there are still private competitions. However, there should be competent bodies to keep in check the power of such dominating bodies, to maintain the checks & balances in the system.
However, the same cannot be said for other sports like cricket. Here, the Indian Cricket League alleged that BCCI has abused its power as being the dominant force in the market. The BCCI was prima Facie held guilty for “systematically excluding the Informant from participating in the relevant market” through non-recognition to ICL, under Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2012. A penalty of INR 52.25 crore was imposed on the BCCI for such abuse.
A similar phenomenon was seen when CCI was asked to decide whether the All India Chess Federation (AICF) was moving into practising anti-competitive practices. In the case of Hemant Sharma v. All India Chess Federation, the court said “in the organisation of professional chess events/tournaments as well as in incidental revenue-generating activities” was done by AICF. In section 4 of the Competition Act the AICF was found to be guilty. According to the Commission, the penalties imposed on players including those listed in the AICF Code of Conduct were exceptionally severe, including life bans and the denial of any right to a hearing. Furthermore, there was no definition of an “unauthorised tournament” or any criterion for its authorization in the AICF’s regulations.
The above cases Indicate what happens when an Organization exercises a monopoly over a sport. It forces the sports person & the other stakeholders in the market to suffer. Complete bans & boycotts by the organization generally result at the end of the careers of sportsmen or related businesses. Although a fair market with competition allows the stakeholders of the organization for alternatives in such cases of bans & allows the industry to flourish at the same time, both economically & performance-wise.
Therefore, in our analysis, we have realized that Indian sports policy has empowered a few government-backed organizations more than others, which has raised concerns for many sportspersons & related businesses but we have also observed that many times courts & commissions have stood up with the sportspersons to safeguard their rights even though there have been times when the court has not interfered eg. Virat Kholi in 2021 was removed from captaincy by the BCCI chief. This suggests that such ill practices still exist & without proper decentralization of sports organizations whether public or private the desired results cannot be achieved.