The All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) was suspended by FIFA with immediate effect on Tuesday, August 16 due to undue influence from third parties. The decision was taken unanimously by the Bureau of the FIFA Council. 

"The Bureau of the FIFA Council has unanimously decided to suspend the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes," an official media release by FIFA read.

FIFA’s decision to suspend Indian football’s governing body means that the country could now be stripped of the right to host the upcoming U-17 Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in October. Furthermore, if FIFA decides to move the tournament elsewhere, it will cast doubts over India’s participation in it since they only qualified on account of being the host nation.

For the moment, FIFA have kept the doors open for a quick resolution, stating that they are hoping for a positive outcome.

“FIFA is assessing the next steps with regard to the tournament and will refer the matter to the Bureau of the Council if and when necessary. FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved,” read the official statement.

Why has FIFA suspended India?

AIFF’s mismanagement of Indian football has been reported for years and even decades. But the reason behind this suspension is reported to be due to AIFF’s mismanagement since December 2020 after Praful Patel completed his third term and maximum quota of 12 years as AIFF president

The maximum term that one is permitted to be a national sports federation chief under the Sports Code is 12 years. Patel has already completed 12 years after finishing three terms as AIFF president.

Ideally, the elections for a new president should have taken place but the event was delayed because of pending cases in the Supreme Court regarding the AIFF’s constitution.

The case, which was in transition since 2017, allowed Patel to continue as AIFF’s president till the issue of a new constitution was settled.

A brief timeline

On May 18, 2022, the Supreme Court of India appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA), headed by former top judge A.R. Dave, Dr S. Y. Quraishi and former Indian football team captain Bhaskar Ganguly while forcing Patel and his executive committee to step down.

The CoA was tasked to oversee the daily operations of the AIFF and in May, Dr S. Y. Quraishi had said a newly elected body of the AIFF should be in place by September, a month before the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

In June, the FIFA-AFC team visited to discuss the development and while the initial talks went well, FIFA set a deadline of July 31 for the CoA to set things in order. 

A month later, the CoA submitted the final draft of the constitution of the AIFF to the Supreme Court and while there were some disagreements regarding several provisions, AIFF’s state units bowed to find a middle ground.

On July 28, the Supreme Court postponed the hearing of the AIFF elections to August 3 as they wanted to give the U-17 Women’s World Cup first priority.

On August 3, the Supreme Court asked the AIFF to hold and conclude elections as soon as possible, with the result expected by August 28 or 29. The court formed an Electoral College consisting 36 representatives of state football associations and 36 eminent former football players.

The poll process was supposed to start on August 13 but FIFA issued a timely warning, threatening to suspend the AIFF due to third-party influence. Football’s governing body also warned AIFF that it would lose its right to host the U-17 World Cup.

Ahead of the elections, poll’s returning officer Umesh Sinha rejected Subrata Dutta and Larsing Ming’s nominations, citing that the duo has already served three terms on the AIFF executive committee.

This in turn led to AIFF continuing to delay the event and as a result, FIFA finally suspended Indian football’s governing body. 

“The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs,” read an excerpt from the statement.

What are the potential impacts of the FIFA suspension?

To begin with, India will lose the hosting rights of the U-17 Women’s World Cup if the AIFF fails to get its house in order soon. 

Secondly, as long as AIFF remains suspended, the Indian national football team cannot play any international FIFA-recognised friendlies. It must be noted that the Blue Tigers were scheduled to play two friendlies against Vietnam and Singapore in September. India’s participation in the SAFF Women's Championship next month is also in doubt.

Furthermore, since no Indian football clubs can participate in FIFA-recognized competition, Gokulam Kerala’s women’s team is now barred from taking part in the AFC Women’s Club Championship.

Similarly, ATK Mohun Bagan cannot play in their AFC Cup Inter-Zonal playoffs, scheduled in the first week of September in Kolkata.

Lastly, no Indian club is currently allowed to register a foreign player to its squad. While domestic transfers of Indians are permissible, a player from a different Member’s Association is not eligible for a move.

Featured photo: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar