Soccer-FIFA tells Indian FA to hold elections by Sept. 15 to avoid ban

FILE PHOTO: A long exposure shows FIFA's logo near its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

MUMBAI (Reuters) - World governing body FIFA has told India's football association to complete changes to its constitution and elect new office bearers by Sept. 15 to avoid being banned, officials said.

India's highest court disbanded the All India Football Federation (AIFF) executive committee last month after it failed to hold elections on time and amend its regulations in line with rules stipulated by the national sports code.

The court then appointed a three-member committee to run the body, amend the AIFF's constitution and conduct elections that have been pending for 18 months.

FIFA statutes say that member federations must be free from legal and political interference in their respective countries and the world governing body has previously suspended other national associations over similar cases.

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation sent a team led by AFC General Secretary Windsor John to meet Indian football stakeholders, including sports minister Anurag Thakur, on a three-day visit that concluded on Thursday.

"The meetings concluded that the next steps should be the ratification of the AIFF statutes in line with FIFA/AFC principles of good governance and the holding of an electoral congress to choose the next AIFF leadership," the AFC said in a statement.

"This would be based on a timeline agreed by AIFF stakeholders."

Shaji Prabhakaran, chief of the Delhi FA and former FIFA regional development officer, said on Twitter the AIFF had been given a deadline of July 31 to amend its statutes and Sept. 15 to conclude its election.

"FIFA-AFC delegation has given us a strict timeline. It is on us to avoid FIFA ban," he added.

A ban could see India losing their hosting rights for the Under-17 Women's World Cup in October.

The elections of the AIFF, led by FIFA Council member Praful Patel, were to be held by December 2020 but were delayed due to an impasse over amendments to its constitution.

Cricket-mad India is a massive underachiever in football and the country, which is home to 1.3 billion people, has yet to make an appearance at the World Cup finals.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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