FIFA bans AIFF: What went wrong in the span of a month?

The Football House, headquarters of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), in New Delhi Qamar Sibtain/The India Today Group via Getty Images

FIFA banned the All India Football Federation (AIFF) late on Monday stating "undue interference by a third party." This "third party" is a reference to the actions of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators; but there's more to it than simply this body being a third party.

This development came weeks after all seemed well between the world and Indian governing bodies, and days after an electoral college of 36 former players was announced. This played its part in the ban.

While the involvement of the Supreme Court began long before, to understand the circumstances of the ban we must look into what we know (publically available information) has happened with the CoA, the SC and FIFA over the last few months.

Timeline of events: From the ouster of long-standing president Praful Patel to FIFA's decision to ban the AIFF

On June 21, FIFA and AFC (Asian Football Confederation) sent a high level joint-delegation to assess the situation: what was happening with the AIFF and the proposed new constitution and elections.

It is important to note here that FIFA had no objection to the Supreme Court's initial intervention to form the CoA or the functioning of the CoA itself. They had also appeared satisfied by the process underway to conduct the elections and finalise the draft constitution. They merely sought assurances that strict deadlines that the CoA had themselves imposed on finalising the constitution first (by 31 July) and conducting the elections afterwards (by 15 September) would be followed and that the CoA were considering all the issues being raised by the various state federations as well football clubs.

All was well at this point, when the delegation flew out of India on 23 June.

There was one warning sign though: The evening before FIFA's visit, the CoA had announced the formation of an advisory committee headed by Ranjit Bajaj (who was the petitioner in the case that saw Praful Patel dismissed as AIFF head, and has been a staunch critic of the regime). This committee was disbanded within 24 hours, reportedly due to strong disapproval from FIFA, who considered this to be third party involvement. Despite this, Bajaj worked closely with the CoA (as publicly stated by him) in an unofficial capacity till the draft constitution was submitted.

The situation worsened a few days after the FIFA-AFC delegation left. State bodies raised several objections to the final draft of the constitution which was sent to them on 13 July. They then moved the Supreme Court against the CoA on 20 July while simultaneously informing FIFA of the same.

This is where it started to become messy.

On 3 August, the Supreme Court ordered the CoA to conduct elections speedily, and set a deadline of 28 August for the same. The Court also noted that the constitution can be finalised post that since it will necessitate more deliberation. The CoA claimed that the state associations had been taken into confidence ahead of this and were fine with the development.

However, this was a major deviation from the plan agreed upon when FIFA had come visiting: which was that the constitution will be finalised first, with elections conducted later.

Why did FIFA ban India? What does it imply and how can it be lifted?

There was another major development at this hearing which triggered FIFA's reaction - the announcement that 36 'eminent' footballers would be part of the Electoral College, which would vote in the coming elections. This meant a 50-50 representation of players and state body assembly members.

FIFA wrote to the sports ministry on 6 August stating that while they understood the importance of player representation, they should not constitute more than 25% of the EC. They said this to ensure the power of the state bodies (who make up the AIFF General Assembly) remained intact; in line with FIFA statutes. They also added that India was risking a suspension and all that it implied.

At this point, the relationship between CoA and FIFA appeared to have frayed, even though the CoA assured FIFA that everything was on track. On August 10, the CoA moved a contempt petition against ex-AIFF president Praful Patel who they claimed was misinforming FIFA about the developments in India. The Supreme Court then issued a warning to the state bodies over Patel attending its meetings.

On 15 August, CoA named 36 eminent footballers - in line with their recommendation of 50% representation, which was against what FIFA had stipulated. On 15 August, FIFA first informed the sports ministry and then towards the end of the day issued a public notice stating that AIFF had been suspended.

This deviation from the roadmap and the inclusion of 50% players was construed by the Bureau of the FIFA Council (constituting the FIFA president and the six confederation presidents) as "undue interference by a third party" and promptly suspended AIFF.