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UWW Suspends of Wrestling Federation of India

  • 30 Aug 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Wrestling Federation of India, United World Wrestling, Wrestling

For Mains: Role of the Indian government in ensuring the smooth functioning of national sports federations, Discuss the role of sports in enhancing a nation's image and reputation internationally.

Source: TH

Why in News? 

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the national governing body for wrestling, has been provisionally suspended by the United World Wrestling (UWW), for not conducting its elections on time. 

  • This has serious implications for the Indian wrestlers, who will not be able to compete under the national flag in the upcoming World Championships in Serbia.

Why was the WFI Suspended by UWW?

  • The UWW has suspended the WFI for violating its constitution, which mandates that all member federations must hold their elections every four years.
    • The WFI was supposed to hold its elections in February 2023, but they were delayed due to various reasons, including allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation, financial irregularities, and administrative lapse against the former WFI president and others by some prominent wrestlers.
  • The UWW also wanted to protect the athletes and make the federation work properly again.

What are the Other Sports Bodies in India Facing Similar Conflicts?

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI)

  • The WFI is the governing body of wrestling in India. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • It is recognized by the Government of India and the Indian Olympic Association. 
  • It organizes various national and international wrestling events, such as the Pro Wrestling League, the National Wrestling Championship, and the Asian Championships.
  • The WFI also supports and trains Indian wrestlers who participate in the Olympic Games. 

United World Wrestling (UWW)

  • UWW is the international governing body for the sport of amateur wrestling. It oversees wrestling at the Olympics and the World Championships.
  • UWW is headquartered in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. 
  • UWW was founded in 1912 as the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA). It changed its name to United World Wrestling in 2014.
  • UWW has a vision to be globally recognized as an inspiring, innovative, and leading Olympic Federation3. Its mission is to lead the growth of wrestling around the world.

History of the Game of Wrestling in India

  • Wrestling in India dates back to the 5th millennium B.C.
  • Ancient India practised wrestling known as MallaYudha.
  • Bhima from Mahabharata was a renowned wrestler, along with Jarasandha, Keechaka, and Balrama.
  • Ramayana also mentions wrestling, with Hanuman as a notable wrestler.
  • Wrestling is referred to as "Dangal" in India and is a basic form of wrestling tournament. It's called "kushti" in Punjab and Haryana regions.
  • Originally a fitness activity and entertainment for royals, wrestling has evolved into a professional sport.

What is the Impact of the Suspension?

  • Wrestlers' Participation: 
    • According to the UWW, wrestlers and their support personnel can still participate in UWW-sanctioned events, but under the UWW flag rather than the national flag.
  • UWW Events: 
    • Indian wrestlers will be unable to compete under the national flag in UWW events, including the upcoming World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Additionally, no Indian national anthem will be played if a wrestler secures a gold medal.
    • WFI cannot receive any financial or technical assistance from the UWW.
  • Indian Wrestling:
    • The suspension tarnishes India’s image and reputation in the international wrestling community. It also demoralizes and disheartens the Indian wrestlers, who have worked hard to prepare for the World Championships and other events.
    • Suspension of WFI hinders wrestler’s qualification chances for the 2024 Paris Olympics, as the World Championships are a qualifying event.
    • The suspension is a major setback for Indian wrestling, which has been one of the most successful sports for India in recent years. India has won four Olympic medals, 19 World Championship medals, and 69 Asian Championship medals in wrestling since 2008.

Way Forward

  • The immediate solution is to conduct the WFI elections as soon as possible and submit the results to UWW for approval. 
  • The long-term solution is to reform and restructure the WFI, which has been plagued by various problems and controversies for a long time. The WFI should adopt a professional and accountable approach to its functioning, with proper checks and balances, financial audits, grievance redressal mechanisms, etc.
  • The WFI should also foster a healthy and harmonious relationship with UWW and other international bodies, and abide by their rules and regulations. The WFI should also cooperate with other national federations and regional associations, and promote the growth and popularity of wrestling in India and abroad. 
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