At the AIFF AGM in Mumbai on Saturday, long-serving president Praful Patel was reportedly confronted by members demanding the holding of elections which have been put off for nearly 14 months, with Patel claiming that the matter is sub-judice. An issue that Patel was aware has been causing discontent among the members for a while now, apparently managed to surprise him when it was first raised by NA Haris of the Karnataka State Football Association and soon became a unified demand by a section of the members.
“The demand was not part of the agenda, it would not have been admitted,” a member who attended the AGM told Times Sport, “The points that been admitted as per protocol 20 days priors, were to do with allocation of funds to state associations, creation of a football league and a matter to increase the profile of the Santosh Trophy. Mr Patel was certainly not expecting this,” added the official.
Patel was also hamstrung by the absence of his general secretary who could’ve steered the AGM back to the matter on hand. Kushal Das, despite staying in the same hotel, decided to attend the meeting virtually. Members who attended told Times Sport, “Das had to conduct the AGM but as it progressed, he didn’t seem to be in a position to speak.”
When contacted, Das told Times Sport, “You can draw your own conclusions. I can send you my Covid report which is negative. I was very unwell and in the morning itself I told people that I would not be able to attend the meeting. People can decide what they want, but it’s quite a crazy assumption to think that I would be drinking after showing symptoms for Covid.”
The members’ unhappiness arises from the fact that despite having served his third four-year term, Patel doesn’t seem in a mood to step aside despite all his claims to the otherwise. In December 2020, when elections seemed imminent, the AIFF moved Supreme Court with the plea that since the constitution was suspended, the current dispensation should be allowed to continue till a new code is established. Drafted as per the National Sports Code by former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, AIFF’S new constitution has been pending for four years.
On Saturday, Haris is said to have contested Patel’s refrain by asking under what legalese was the AGM being called. He even suggested a special resolution where Patel be allowed to continue for four more years but sought an end to this continuing legal imbroglio.
What has further exacerbated the issue was the abject lack for financial support for the state associations – last year, states received a mere Rs 9 lakh each from FIFA’s Covid fund — while the AIFF has coughed up Rs 3 crore each year as legal fees.
Patel reportedly suggested the formation of a three-man committee with Haris and two others, to explore a second legal opinion to ascertain whether elections can indeed be held. On a stormy Saturday in Mumbai, this was the only thing of note that came out of an AGM.