By S.T. Arasu
There is no single, unified body promoting kabaddi globally. Is that a problem for the sport? The answer may be differ and be more complicated depending on whom you speak to.
Currently, there are multiple organisations that claim to govern kabaddi and it gives the impression that the sports lack cohesion and legitimacy.
There are at least four different international organisations for the sports registered in India alone with World Kabaddi being an exception, registered outside the sub-continent.
Of the numerous bodies, only two– World Kabaddi and the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) – seems to have some standing internationally.
The IKF being the oldest of the registered bodies has strong backing in Asia, especially so in India, the birthplace of the sport.
But it is the World Kabaddi, which boasts of a larger and better structured membership not only in Asia but also in the other continents.
For a sport that is looking to gain Olympic recognition, the multiple international bodies, is a cause of serious concern. But is it the utmost importance for a single regulatory body to oversee kabaddi and to preserve the legitimacy of the sport?
Last year, the Court of Arbitration (CAS) in resolving the dispute between the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the International Canoe Federation (ICF) in regards to the governance of the sport of Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP), has more a less set a precedent to other sports with similar issues.
The ISU’s petition for the CAS to declare itself as the sole governing body for the sports was denied. The CAS, instead, has declared that while the ISA has the right to govern and administer the sports at the Olympics, the ICF remains entitled to conduct all types of SUP activities outside of the Olympic movement.
The CAS also pointed out that any recognition of the Olympic level belongs exclusively to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In this context, two kabaddi bodies can co-exist without any legal implications.
The first step in the process of becoming an Olympic sport is recognition as a sport from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Once a sport is recognised, it then moves to International Sports Federation (IF) status. At that point, the international organisation administering the sport must enforce the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code, including conducting effective out-of-competition tests on the sport’s competitors while maintaining rules set forth by the Olympic Charter.
However, a sport may gain IOC recognition but not become a competing event at the Olympic Games.
Air Sports, American Football, Motorsports, Bandy, Billiards, Boules, Bowling, Bridge, Cheerleading, Chess, Cricket, Dance Sport, Floorball, Flying Disc, Icestocksport, Kickboxing, Korfball, Lacrosse, Life Saving, Motorcyle Racing, Muntaineering, Muaythai, Netball, Orienteering, Pelota Vasca, Polo. Powerboating, Racquetball, Sambo, Ski Mountaineering, Squash, Sumo, Tug-of-War, Underwater Sports, Water Ski and Wushu are all recognised sports, but they do not compete at the Olympics.
Once an IF has presented its petition, many rules and regulations control whether the sport will become part of the Olympic Games. The sport must also increase the ‘‘value and appeal’’ of the Olympic Games and retain and reflect its modern traditions.
To make it more difficult, under the IOC’s Agenda 2020, no sports will be removed from the programme to accommodate new ones, a complete change from its past stance.
However, the IOC now allows each Organizing Committee to propose new temporary sports for their individual hosting of The Games.
It was under his new rule that five new sports were included for the Tokyo Olympics. Surfing, skateboarding, climbing and karate will make their debut at the Olympics sports for the first time while Baseball/softball has also been let back into the games for the first time since 2008.
The odds are already stacked up against kabaddi, which is currently not even in a position to be recognised as a sport by the IOC.
With numerous organisations becoming involved in the sport, especially in India, is the current scenario pushing the sport into a “free-for-all” battleground?
Kabaddi is seen a money churner, second only to cricket in India. This has resulted in not only the numerous international governing bodies registered in India but also numerous rival “national bodies” as well as rival associations at every level.
Numerous multi-sport and school organisations have also thrown their hats into the burgeoning kabaddi market in India.
While the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), there has been no rule to stop other organisations running their own competitions.
That the AKFI has been under a court appointed administration for the past two years without any resolution, shows how fragile the sport is actually in the country.
World Kabaddi’s affiliate in India is the New Kabaddi Federation and it also has a working relationship with the All India Kabaddi Federation (AIKF).
India are not the only country with rival kabaddi organisations. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kenya and England are just some of the other countries with the same issues. However this has not stopped the organisations under the World Kabaddi to conduct their activities.
Malaysia hosted the inaugural World Cup Kabaddi while England co-hosted the European Cup in 2019 successfully.
Internationally, kabaddi is not the only sport to have more than one governing body.
Take tennis for instance, there is the ATP, WTA, the Grand Slams, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), each looking after their own interest in the sport. Boxing also has numerous governing bodies including the WBA, WBC, IBF and the AIBA.
Can kabaddi survive the current state of affairs to seriously contend for a place in the Olympics?
While the jostling between rival bodies is a distraction, there is no reason as to why the sport cannot come out of the current imbroglio unscathed.
Taekwondo and dodgeball are two other organisations with more than one governing body each. The IOC has recognised one body for each sport respectively while the others have been allowed to continue with their own activities.
Taekwondo even became a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and has been a sport in the Olympic Games since then.
A good bet for kabaddi to get Olympic inclusion in the future is for any of the hosts to recommend the sports for inclusion, especially if the host happens to be India.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Narendra Batra in 2018 outlined the events the nation was hoping to host, which included the 2032 Olympics and the 2026 Summer Youth Olympics.
The 2026 Youth Olympics is out of the question after the IOC postponed the 2022 event in Dakar by four years while India has yet to make a formal push for the 2032 Olympics.
But hoping for India to host the Olympics is still a long shot, especially with cricket also being bandied as a potential Olympic sport.
The Olympic Charter indicates that in order to be accepted, a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents.
Herein lies the fundamental key that World Kabaddi is hoping to achieve through its ten year Strategic Plan.
PLAY! PASSION! PRIDE!
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