POA-government rift hurting athletes

February 16, 2020

Instead of creating new problems, the IPC ministry should join hands with the POA to make sure national sports is run in a professional manner

Only through joint efforts of the state organs, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and National Federations (NFs) can the country’s sports grow. If anyone of them does not play its role, the whole system is affected. Who suffer the most in such a scenario? Of course, the athletes.

If the above three components work within their own working sphere then I believe the system will strengthen and sports will progress. We saw a few years ago how Pakistan’s government had to bow before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and restore its working relations with the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) when Riaz Pirzada was the IPC minister.

An NOC is an autonomous body and is affiliated with the IOC. Even Pakistan’s top court has declared POA an autonomous body.

It has been observed during the last few months that the Ministry of IPC, which also handles sports with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) working under it, is not cooperating with the POA. When Pakistan’s contingent was in Nepal last December in connection with the 13th South Asian Games, the IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza on the floor of National Assembly expressed her dissatisfaction over the POA’s elections held last year. She felt that these were non-transparent. The point had been raised by the MQM senior member Iqbal Mohammad Ali without knowing international laws and regulations. And in the recently-held PSB ExCo meeting, Fehmida repeated her views, according to sources, which is indeed a grave concern for Pakistan’s sports. Before showing concerns, the minister should first read the IOC charter and the constitution of the NOC. Both IOC and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) have endorsed the NOC’s elections.

The other day the IOC and the OCA in a joint letter warned Pakistan’s government against interfering in the affairs of the NOC. “The repeated attempts by individuals to continuously challenge the autonomy of the Pakistan Olympic Association and call for government interference or outside intervention with the POA are not only extremely regrettable but also go against the basic principles of the Olympic Charter, which governs the Olympic Movement,” the letter, which has been addressed to the POA, said as reported by media.

“These matters have been addressed and definitively resolved at all levels over the past decade. Therefore, it is now expected that everyone acts accordingly and responsibly, and that such actions cease with immediate effect so as to let the POA focus on its mission and activities in favour of the Olympic Movement and the athletes in the country,” the letter says.

“We can confirm that the POA is in good standing with the IOC and the OCA, and we hope that the relevant government authorities can fully support the POA in its activities and preparations for the forthcoming Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, in the interest of sport and the athletes in Pakistan.”

The IOC has also directed the POA chief to communicate its stand to the top government authorities. “We would appreciate it if you could inform the highest government authorities of the IOC and the OCA position so as to avoid any unnecessary confusion.”

The Olympic charter’s rules pertaining to NOCs say that in order to fulfil their mission, the NOCs may cooperate with governmental bodies, with which they shall achieve harmonious relations.

“However, they shall not associate themselves with any activity which would be in contradiction with the Olympic Charter.

“NOCs must preserve their autonomy and resist all pressures of any kind, including but not limited to political, legal, religious or economic pressures which may prevent them from complying with the Olympic Charter.”

Pakistan’s sports governing bodies should do what is beneficial for athletes and they should avoid taking any such step which may harm athletes.

Former PSB Director General Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera maintained strong relations with the POA and federations. “There is a simple rule. If you are to go with the international bodies then you will have to accept their rules,” Ganjera told ‘The News on Sunday.

“If PSB, POA and federations work within their parameters then I don’t think the system will face any issue,” he was quick to add.

“Our sports bodies’ main mission should be the development of athletes and there is a lot of work for all the three main bodies if they want to work within their own working spheres,” Ganjera said.

I cannot advise the IPC minister as she is a seasoned politician but I want to point out to her that there are some people very close to her whose motives are not good. She should not take any such step which could derail the sports system and which could force the IOC to impose sanctions on Pakistan.

It’s the right of our athletes to play under their country’s flag. The IPC ministry should keep cordial relations with the POA. If both bodies come closer to each other sports issues can be resolved and the system will begin yielding results.

The confrontation among top bodies over the years damaged sports a lot. The government is not even not funding those athletes who have either qualified for this year’s Olympics or are labouring to carving a niche in the world’s most prestigious event coming summer in Tokyo.

Pakistan is to host the 14th South Asian Games towards the end of 2021. If IPC ministry does not cooperate with the POA then how can these Games be organised? I have learnt from sources that IPC has not responded to the POA’s several letters regarding the 2021 South Asian Games.

The previous one and a half years have been the worst as far as the government’s input in sports development is concerned. Even the PSB surrendered Rs60 million in the last financial year. No camps were held, no foreign coaches were hired, no foreign tours were sponsored and most of the athletes who were aiming to grab Olympics seat were left unsponsored.

Some federations recently criticised the federal government for not backing their Olympics hopefuls.

Instead of creating new problems, the IPC ministry should join hands with the POA to ensure proper handling of sports in the country.

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NOC, IPC, POA should work together for betterment of sports in Pakistan