Illustration:Shyam G Menon

This may be the first instance of a national sports federation providing grants to district associations.

AFI plans to raise the required corpus of funds on its own.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has decided to provide grants to 100 district athletics associations in recognition of their consistent good work to promote athletics in their area and compete in the annual National Inter-District Junior Athletics Meet (NIDJAM).

In an official statement (dated August 2, 2019) available on the AFI website, the federation’s president, Adille Sumariwalla said this will be a pilot project in 2019 and will be extended to more districts in a couple of years. AFI believes that this may be the first instance of a national sports federation providing grants to district associations.

“ We know that we have to broaden the base to be able to find the talent that can be nurtured to passionately pursue Olympian dreams,’’ Mr Sumariwala said. According to him, the initiative has the support of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports’ Khelo India program. “ We met the Ministry and Sports Authority of India officials a few weeks ago to finalize the modalities of this game-changing move,’’ Mr. Sumariwalla said in the statement. AFI has already initiated the process of identifying the 100 districts to be provided financial support this year.

According to an AFI official this blog spoke to, there is no budgetary support from government for this scheme. AFI plans to raise the required corpus of funds on its own. “ The quantum of money to be raised has been decided but it will be premature to disclose it at this stage. We hope to raise the funds through sponsorship,’’ the official said. Once the corpus is in place and funds are allocated to a district athletics association it will be used to ensure that certain minimum quality standards – examples being the infrastructure needed to hold a proper competition, making sure that people know about the event – are met. It will help introduce and maintain benchmarks in event organization. When allotting funds to district associations, there will be no discrimination on the basis of profile and prominence.

On its part, the government has agreed to support the athletic talent spotted by AFI at inter district meets, the official said. Such support will be as part of the government’s Khelo India program.

AFI believes that this move will inspire the state associations to streamline themselves better. At the recent annual general meeting of AFI, officials from state associations were told in clear terms to shape up or ship out, the statement said. AFI also encouraged youngsters from the districts to take up and complete the IAAF Coaches Education and Certification Level 1 program.

All districts will conduct their championships ahead of the 17th NIDJAM for under-16 and under-14 boys and girls which will be held from November 24. AFI is planning a meeting with the presidents and secretaries of close to 500 districts to share details of the AFI development program and motivate them to make athletics more popular in their respective districts, the statement said.

Athletes who came up through previous editions of NIDJAM include javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra (2012), sprinter Dutee Chand (2011), discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (2010) and 400m runner V Subha (2014).

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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