They don’t understand: AITA hits out at Sports Ministry after meeting

Tennis.

New Delhi, (Samajweekly) All India Tennis Association (AITA) was left disgruntled after a virtual meeting with the Sports Ministry on Thursday. AITA was one of 11 National Sports Federations (NSF) that were part of the meeting with Sports Secretary R.S. Jhulaniya.

“They wanted to review what we are doing regarding scouting of talent for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. It was a general discussion, nothing in particular,” AITA secretary-general Hironmoy Chatterjee told IANS.

AITA went into the meeting hoping that they would get permission to utilise a portion of their Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC) funds for kickstarting domestic tournaments by July.

“Regarding that we just tried to point out to them that immediately we need to start the domestic circuit from July for which we wanted to use the unutilised portion of the ACTC fund. They didn’t agree with that and all they wanted to discuss was 2024 and 2028, how to develop champions and all that,” said Chatterjee.

Tennis players have over the past few days voiced their worries of how they can sustain themselves if there are no tournaments or matches to be played for a long period. The global tennis calendar has been frozen due to the coronavirus pandemic and the likes of Mahesh Bhupathi and Vijayt Amritraj have stated that without the money that comes from playing these matches, many tennis players, especially those who are not within the top 100 of the ATP or WTA rankings, could struggled to sustain their careers.

Chatterjee said that the AITA representatives tried explaining this but they were not heard in the meeting.

“Of course, we went into the meeting with a very clear mind that we are going to ask the government for support. We had created a tournament schedule. From July we need to start to give support to our national players who are totally out of competition. Though we have started online coaching and all, we need to start (playing).

“That is why were hoping that by July the restrictions will be eased and then we will be able to start domestic tournaments. But they didn’t want to discuss anything in detail about these things, nor did they want to speak about funding and support.”

When asked about the plight of the players in case the AITA is not able to come up with a solution, Chatterjee said, “That’s what we were trying to convince the government. But the government was only thinking about 2024 and 2028 and not at the immediate situation.”

Chatterjee said that there may be another round of discussions with the ministry in the next two weeks but he doesn’t have high hopes from it.

“They are planning to call discussions after about 10 days. I don’t think it is going to be very fruitful discussing it because I don’t see them coming forward to actually do much. I don’t think they understand also,” he said.

He also said that players and coaches have reached out to the AITA with financial concerns. “We are trying to look for a solution and we had decided to go to the government and ask them to allow us to utilise the ACTC funds but they don’t want to get into all this,” he said.