Year Before Olympics, Administrators Leave Indian Archery in Limbo
In a tussle between the Archery Association of India and the Sports Ministry and the IOA, archers are left in the cold with no schedule or plan in sight.
In a tussle between the Archery Association of India and the Sports Ministry and the IOA, archers are left in the cold with no schedule or plan in sight.(Photo: AP)

Year Before Olympics, Administrators Leave Indian Archery in Limbo

January 2019 officially marked the start of the Olympic race. Not really the race to win a medal but, at least, to qualify for the mega event in Tokyo in 2020.

For Indian archers though, January was no different than December as the entire month saw only more confusion with the Archery Association of India omitted from the Sports Ministry's list of recognised national federations in their annual renewal.

The AAI has been given time till 31 March to fall in line or risk de-recognition while the archers are left out in the cold, unaware about which events they will be participating in this year.

What’s The Contention?

Out in the cold for the last six years, the Archery Association of India amended its constitution and held elections on 22 December 2018 and BVP Rao was elected president. The entire process was conducted under the supervision of the Delhi High Court-appointed administrator and former Chief Election Commissioner of India, S Y Quraishi.

However, the Sports Ministry and the IOA had objected to certain clauses in the amended constitution that the AAI had submitted to the high court, saying that some parts of the new constitution did not tally with the National Sports Development Code of India (NSDCI).

In fact, late in January, the Sports Ministry dragged the matter to the Supreme Court making a plea to strike off the amendment that disallowed public servants from holding office. The sports ministry claimed this clause did not tally with the National Sports Development Code of India (NSDCI), 2011.

The ministry has asked for a fresh election to be conduction after the changes are made in the constitution.

New AAI President Not Recognised by World Body

Not only is BVP Rao’s election as the President of the Archery Association of India being contested by India’s Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association, the sport’s world body has also stated that it did not recognise the officials elected on 22 December 2018.

In a statement released on 21 January 2019, the sport’s parent body said, “On 16 January 2019, Secretary General Tom Dielen sent an email to BVP Rao and the rest of the association administration informing them that World Archery did not recognise the outcome of the general assembly held on 22 December 2018, due to the constitution used being never formally approved. This includes BVP Rao’s election as president.

Archers Left Out in Cold

With an Archery World Cup scheduled for 22 April this year and also the big World Archery Championships running from 3-16 June, Indian archers need to compete in as many events as possible to seal their berth in the Tokyo Olympics and also gather the correct momentum leading into the big event next year.

As of 6 February 2019 though, there hasn't been a single training camp or any intimation from the Federation regarding a roadmap for the elite archers. The first coaching camp of the season was scheduled to start on 5 February but has now been postponed to the 10th.

The Quint spoke to Abhishek Verma, India’s top compound archer and also number eight in the world, about the difficulties the administrative tug-of-war is creating for the sportspersons.

“It is troubling. We don’t have the schedule, we don’t know which tournament we are playing in, which ones we need to practice for. We are expected to target a medal without knowing when we will be competing for the medal. I am waiting for them to give us the schedule so we know where we are headed.”
Abhishek Verma to The Quint

Road Ahead?

The senior camp now is slated to begin on 10 February in Sonipat with the junior nationals starting in Bhopal from Friday, and the senior nationals scheduled for next month in Bhubaneswar.

New President BVP Rao believes once the camps get underway, things will start falling into place for the sportspersons the Federation was formed to assist, in the first place.

“Following the nationals we will pick the team and appoint a national coach. Things are starting to fall in place. Once it’s settled, they will recognise AAI.”
BVP Rao, President- Archery Association of India

There is however the major court date in the next week that could topple all of Rao’s plans. The IOA’s Supreme Court plea against the new contentious amendments in the AAI constitution and also the election, is slated to be heart in the next week and if the apex court were to rule in favour of the ministry, Rao could see his tenure as AAI President cut short after just two months.

It would also mean an administrative vacuum in the Federation in the time span it would take to rework the constitution and hold fresh elections.

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