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Games Politics: A Scholar’s Mantra To Boost Sports In India

Former sportspersons and professionals rather than politicians and bureaucrats should drive Indian sports federations if the country’s standards are to improve, says Geoff Schoenberg, a Research Fellow at Australia’s Deakin University, whose post-doctoral work is specifically focused on sports governance in India.

“One of the common things I heard from the people I talked to is that governance of Indian sports federations often lack the perspective on the sport itself that can be derived by having athletes and former sports persons.

“It is very different in Australia; for a long time in Australia, the governance has been done by ex-sports people and in India a lot of governance is done by people outside the sport like bureaucrats and politicians, which has some advantages but you start to lose track of the central role,” added Schoenberg, who works out of the Centre for Sports Research at Deakin University that is affiliated to the Australia India Institute. This is Australia’s only centre for the study of contemporary India and the Australia-India relationship.

Schoenberg said bringing in professionalism will raise the governance of the sports to new levels.”One of the big things that will help Indian sports governance is professionalisation. By bringing in professional staff members to perform the operational roles will allow the executive committees (of the federations) to focus on the long-term vision,” he said.

Schoenberg also explained the difference between governance and management. “After spending 16 months studying sports governance in India there are few things to note. First is to separate governance and management.

“Right now, many executive committees of Indian national sports federations are focusing on running their organisations by conducting national championships, but this is the task of the management. Governance is all about the long-term strategic vision and supervising what the management is doing,” he said.

Cricket dominates the sports space in India. Asked about the challenges faced by the other sports bodies in such a scenario, Schoenberg said: “When you start thinking about the governance of an organisation, there is not necessarily any loser. All sports, if governed properly, can be bigger and better. So, just because cricket is dominant in the country, it does not mean other sports can’t do well.

“It does not mean looking to cricket for guidance because the resources and opportunities that cricket provides are different. The less promising organisations can look towards others that are successful. Looking at guidelines and good governance principals in other parts in the world will also help,” he added.

Kate Palmer, the CEO of Australian Sports Commission, also stressed on the importance of good governance in sports organisations. “The Sports Commission focuses very closely on the governance of sports in our county.

I am really pleased Deakin University is conducting this project to improve Indian sports and its governance,” she added.”Australia is very good at it. England and New Zealand are also very good at it, and so is Canada. All have good systems in place. They are very similar to us in how they run their sports systems,” she added. #KhabarLive

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