July 14, 2017

IOA finally grants affiliation to the "new" Basketball Federation of India

From a distance, it might seem like Indian Basketball has been bouncing around just fine. India has seen improvements in our national performances over the past few years and have hired a couple of respected international coaches for the senior men's and women's squads. Our stars are starting to make waves internationally and we are even hosting a couple of major FIBA events - the FIBA Asia Women's Cup and FIBA Asia U16 Women's Championship - on our home turf this year.

But true fans know that basketball's mere existence in India since 2015 has been an act of rebellion. Two years ago, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) broke apart into two opposing factions, each claiming to be the rightful committee to lead Indian basketball. The faction led by President K. Govindraj, formed in Bengaluru, was granted affiliated by the international basketball association FIBA because they held their annual general meeting legally as per the BFI constitution. But the faction led by President Poonam Mahajan, formed in Pune, contested this decision, and were supported by the the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of the Government of India. Because of this division, the IOA and the Sports Ministry didn't recognise the Govindraj-faction BFI under the umbrella of Olympic sports and sports federations in India. All of the progress in the sport has since been propelled by the Govindraj-BFI without direct support or affiliations from these higher associations.

Anyways, it's now mid-2017, and the IOA - who had earlier appointed an "ad-hoc" committee to oversee Indian Basketball - have finally done the right thing and granted affiliation to the BFI, coming to terms with the federation that is recognised by BFI and who have been running the show for Indian basketball for the last few years.

The Times of India reported on Friday that, in a letter dated July 13, 2017, the IOA's General Secretary Rajeev Mehta wrote, "In accordance with the directives of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and honouring the rule 29 of Olympic Charter, the IOA grants affiliation to the BFI with K Govindraj as president and Chander Mukhi Sharma as secretary general." Mehta added that the affiliation is "subject to ratification by the executive council / general body of the IOA."

Apparently, it was the leader of the opposing faction - Poonam Mahajan - that finally urged the IOA to end the impasse. More reporting on this issue by Amit Sampat for The Times of India:

The reason to revise the decision and grant recognition to the other faction was the initiative of Poonam Mahajan informed Mehta. "On the initiative of Poonam Mahajan we took this decision. She wanted to end this impasse and was eager to see basketball as one of the top sport. She was always positive for basketball and informed me that she has no problem if IOA grants recognition to the other group. On her positive approach the IOA took this decision and the issue will soon be resolved," Mehta told TOI.
The sports ministry, however, has not granted recognition to either of the factions. Ever since June 12, 2015, the sports ministry has put on hold the conduct of any official basketball event in India until the office bearers of the BFI are recognized by the government.
Even the IMG-Reliance group, which signed a 30-year contract with the BFI in 2010, has stopped all activities including sponsorships until the office bearers are recognized. In that historic deal in 2010 the IMG-Reliance group was given the commercial rights of basketball in India.

Officials of both the factions and IMG-Reliance group have been fighting their respective battles in the court. Mediation is in progress to resolve the issue.

The IOA's affiliation is good news, as the rightful committee atop the BFI can now clear one obstruction on their way to full legitimacy. Hopefully, the government can now follow on this decision and extend their recognition towards the BFI, too. The ball is now in the court - literally, as it is a courtroom battle now - but fans will be hoping for a quick mediation so that the BFI can look for new sponsors beyond IMG Reliance and help move the game forward.

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