You can read the first part here.
The AFI—whatever its intentions—has few friends in the running community.
Right from 2010, when the AFI denied the Sunfeast World 10K permission claiming that it would disrupt the training of athletes for the Commonwealth and Asian games, the national federation has continued to rub race organizers the wrong way.
Even then, the Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS) slammed the AFI’s decision as arbitrary and contrary to the interests of the sport.
What is the role of the AFI in these races?
“The AFI is supposed to help in the technical conduct of the races which comes under their official purview,besides providing a list of the elite Indian athletes for the race.They dont do it for free,of course.The officials are paid for their services by the organizers.”
In 2014, Adille Sumariwalla objected to the Bengaluru Midnight Marathon terming it “illegal”.
The AFI head went further this time criticizing the participation of foreign athletes.
“They cannot take part in illegal events. If they do, they can be booked and arrested under Foreign Exchange Management Act-1999 (FEMA). We have informed the Karnataka State Athletics Association to alert the local authorities.”
Mr. Sumariwalla is a former athlete representing India at the 1980 Moscow games and ought to be able to understand that athletics, like other sports in India except cricket, enjoys step-motherly treatment.
If these races with their burgeoning prize money allow athletes to make a living from the sport, given the aid they receive from the parent body and their employers rarely cover their training and living expenses, the obvious question is why not?
What the AFI should and can do is have athletes adhere to a plan wherein they are able to mix-and-match their training and participation in road races in a judicious manner so that they peak in time for the international events they would be participating in.
The AFI cannot prevent elite runners from making a cost-benefit analysis of their own as to what their remuneration and perceived rewards from participating in various competitions are. It’s not just the prize money that lures these athletes, it’s the guaranteed appearance fee as well. What the AFI needs to understand, is that it cannot be the sole arbiter of its athletes’ destiny. Theirs is a partnership that needs to be nurtured taking into account both circumstances and fiscal needs.
It would not surprise me in the least that the diktat issued by the AFI against its athletes would be deemed anti-competitive and struck down in the interests of all concerned.
Sport in India is changing and attracting more interest at all levels; it’s time the national sports federations recognized this and moved with the times.
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