Yesterday’s decision by 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).
Prior to the initiation of the CAS arbitration in July 2018, the ISA and ICF had attempted to resolve the matter for a number of years through conciliation and mediation procedures which were ultimately unsuccessful.
The ISA launched a CAS legal case in July 2018 to try and resolve the issue, with both organisations running SUP events in the meantime.
During the CAS proceedings, both IFs put forward detailed arguments, both written and oral, as to why they should be responsible for governing the sport.
In coming to its decision, the Panel was guided by the IOC Rules “International Sports Federations requesting IOC Recognition Procedure” (the Recognition Rules) which establish qualitative and quantitative criteria in order to recognise an IF as the non-governmental organisation governing one or more sports, in line with the Olympic Charter.
Looking into the decision made in regards to having more than one governing body for the sport, the CAS seems to have paved the way for other sports with rival international bodies to resolve their own uncertainty.
Taking this in context, rival governing bodies in sports like dodgeball, kabaddi and taekwondo cannot be stopped from conducting their own activities.
In Malaysia, there are also two national governing bodies for a number of sports. In dodgeball there is the Malaysia Dodgeball Federation (MDF) and the Malaysia Association of Dodgeball (MAD).
In kabaddi, there is Malaysia Kabaddi Federation (MKF) and the Kabaddi Association of Malaysia (KAM). Both organisations are registered under the Sports Development Act.
MKF is a member of the World Kabaddi while the KAM is a member of the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF).
Last year, the MKF successfully hosted the inaugural World Cup Kabaddi in Melaka but the event was almost derailed by the KAM and the IKF.
Both the KAM and the IKF had lodged numerous protests against the running of the prestigious event with the Sports Commissioner’s Office, the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), the Sports Ministry and even the Melaka State Government.
Officials from the IKF even made a trip down to Kuala Lumpur to exhort more pressure on the authorities to stop the tournament from taking place.
Their main reason in wanting to stop the tournament was by claiming that they (KAM and IKF) were the sole governing body for the sport. That did not hold water then, more so now.
The decision by the CAS, while centered around only on the sport of SUP, basically also shows that there can be two bodies promoting and developing the same sport.
It is more amplified in the case of kabaddi, with neither the World Kabaddi nor the IKF currently recognised by the IOC.
So can the MKF host another major tournament in Malaysia without having to counter the KAM and IKF? It most certainly can.
With a number of kabaddi playing countries, among others including Malaysia, India, Hong Kong and Kenya, having two different national governing bodies, the CAS decision gives strength to both bodies to conduct their own activities without any interference from the other.
It also empowers the legitimacy of the rival body not only to be recognised as a legal entity but also to conduct their own activities at all levels.
For the Malaysian sports authorities, it is important that they take note of the CAS decision in how they look into sports is developed and promoted in the country.
If the sports has two different national level governing bodies, than a similar stand as ruled by the CAS should be adopted by the relevant authority, be it the Sports Commissioners Office or the National Sports Council or the OCM.
by S.T. Arasu. The writer is the deputy president of the Malaysia Kabaddi Federation (MKF) and the secretary general of World Kabaddi.