Explained: What is WFI vs SAI issue and why have five wrestlers moved to HC against the government? 

The matter has been listed for January 28, 2022.
The matter has been listed for January 28, 2022.

For nearly two weeks now, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have been at loggerheads. The matter escalated further as five wrestlers moved to the Delhi High Court against exclusion by SAI from the benefits extended to the U23 Wrestling World Championships team.

The High court has listed the matter as listed for January 28, 2022, and has asked the counsel of the respondents to file counter-affidavits within four weeks.

What is this WFI vs SAI battle?

It all started when the SAI picked seven wrestlers from the 30 provided by WFI for the U23 wrestling world championship. The government further asked WFI to nominate 17 more who will be sent to Belgrade on SAI’s expenses. The remaining six, along with three coaches, will have to bear their own costs if they wish to compete.

The federation expressed its unhappiness over the decision and questioned SAI for the “injustice”. WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also threatened to pull out if the entire team is not cleared for the competition.

WFI said it had sent a proposal to the SAI on September 7 informing them about the selection policy for the Worlds. As per the proposal, WFI informed the government that the gold medallists from the U23 nationals held in Amethi, UP, in September will be picked for the team.

Also Read: U23 Wrestling World Championship Preview

The government responded to the proposal on October 20 – just nine days before the team’s scheduled departure.

“There is a lot of file movement that takes place there, so we did things in advance. They had a lot of time but SAI decided to revert us on October 20,” a WFI official told Sportskeeda.

The federation also accused SAI of interfering in its selection policy, which has been in place for some time. Furthermore, WFI claimed that this new method by SAI and will hamper the team’s morale.

“They are interfering in our selection process and that too just nine days before departure. We have always had this process for picking up the team for such events. Now, they suddenly want us to change? We have produced results in U23 every time,” the official added.

India has won a total of six medals – all silver medals – at the U23 Wrestling World Championships since its inception in 2017. The best medal haul is three in the inaugural year.

How has SAI justified its decision?

SAI, though cleared 45-members for the U23 wrestling worlds, indicated that it would bear the cost for 36 members, including 24 wrestlers, 6 coaches, 3 physiotherapists and 3 referees.

The ministry excluded three male freestyle grapplers, two Greco-Roman wrestlers and a female wrestler. It also excluded three coaches.

The government pointed out that the decision to clear 24 wrestlers on the Cost to Government was based on an assessment of their performance in the domestic and international events in the last three years.

Also Read: WFI supports wrestlers decision to move Delhi HC against exclusion by SAI

It has suggested targeting specific weight groups, with greater focus on juniors, when funding foreign exposure of wrestlers. SAI has also proposed that the WFI should include coaches from the academies producing a larger number of members of the continent.

Where does things stand now?

The plea was heard on Friday and the court has issued a notice to the SAI, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and WFI.

The federation asked its sponsors for financial assistance for the six wrestlers and coaches-bound to Belgrade for wrestling worlds.

Edited by Diptanil Roy
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