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Volume IconWhat's at stake as FIFA bans All India Football Federation?

The Supreme Court has asked the govt to ensure that India hosts the U-17 Women's World Cup in October. FIFA has suspended India over undue influence from third parties. What are its implications?

ImageAkash Podishetty New Delhi
Indian women's football team

For the girls of Sree Gokulam Kerala FC - India’s top women's football club - the 16th of August flight between Kozhikode and Tashkent was not just between two cities. It was between two different emotions - hope and despair.

Soon after landing in Uzbekistan to play in the AFC Women's Club Championship – Asia’s top women’s club competition -- they were told about the news. FIFA had banned the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for “excessive interference by a third party.”

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This action meant that the Under 17 FIFA Women's World Cup, all set to be hosted by India in October, stands suspended. The move will also have larger, adverse implications for the game in the country. It meant that the national football teams cannot take part in FIFA tournaments, which include the qualification matches for Asia Cup and for World Cup.

So why did FIFA take this extreme step?

The AIFF’s constitution and elections were at the centre of a dispute between FIFA and the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA).

The CoA had prepared a draft constitution that was opposed by the state assembly bodies in the first place. It also decided to form an executive committee which would involve a 50-50 representation of players with voting rights and state assembly members. FIFA saw it as a violation of the rules and a deviation from what was agreed upon earlier.

FIFA wants the AIFF administration to be put back in charge of day-to-day operations, a revision of the constitution and an independent electoral committee overseeing the elections. The Supreme Court told the government to take “proactive steps” with FIFA and set things right.

The Under 17 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to kick-off in mid-October and the ticket sales for the event has started earlier this month. Experts say even though it is difficult to put an exact number on the loss the AIFF might incur due to advertising, media and other deals, it will likely be minimal if the tournament eventually moves out of India. According to FIFA, the investment in the Under 17 FIFA World Cup tournament is budgeted at $21 million.

If we look at the Under 17 Men’s World Cup that India hosted, the global brand and India sponsors shelled out relatively small amounts on television advertising, while broadcaster Sony spent about Rs 50-60 crore.

According to a FICCI report, the tournament recorded the highest attendance for a FIFA Youth World Cup in history and garnered the highest viewership among international football tournaments broadcasted in India. Currently, there are only global brands and no national brands associated with the Women's World Cup, but they might step in closer to the tournament.

Viacom 18 is the broadcast partner for the upcoming Under-17 Women's World Cup. But more than the Women’s world cup, experts say there will be bigger financial implications for the overall football ecosystem in India due to the ban.

If the ban continues, AIFF will also be stripped of FIFA’s funding, which could lead to stress on the finances of the federation. According to a Business Standard report, 40-50 per cent of football sponsorship money could be affected by the ban. Advertisers could also pull back some of their investments in football leagues such as the Indian Super League.

After the successful hosting of the Chess Olympiad, the Under 17 Women's Football World Cup would have given another leg up to the non-cricketing sports in India, not only in terms of eyeballs but also private capital. It is unfortunate that the tournament is stuck in administrative slack. 

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First Published: Aug 19 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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