We missed this earlier.
The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, a self-regulatory body for fantasy sports, appointed long-time government officer Bimal Julka as its chairman. This was announced on October 22. Julka will “work closely with industry stakeholders to strengthen the operating standards of the Indian fantasy sports”, the body said in a statement. Julka is taking over from John Loffhagen, who has served as chairman since 2017.
Julka has served as a civil servant in multiple capacities and ministries. Until August 2020, he was India’s Chief Information Commissioner, a role he had taken over in March 2020. He has served in the union ministries of defence, civil aviation, information and broadcasting, external affairs, finance, commerce, and public relations. Statements from FIFS CEO Anwar Shipurwala and Julka himself suggest that there could be further steps in self-regulation of the fantasy sports industry:
“Having such a senior dignitary, like Mr Julka, representing fantasy sports will strengthen the industry’s credibility, and we are sure to witness new strides towards reformations and standardisation of the rapidly growing fantasy sports industry.” — Anwar Shirpurwala, FIFS CEO
“Fantasy sports is a new and disruptive industry that has great potential to strengthen & promote sports in India through meaningful fan engagement. While fantasy sports is seeing unprecedented growth in both users and operators, there arises an equal need to protect the users and promote responsible growth.” — Bimal Julka, FIFS chairman
Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG), established in 2017, was rechristened to FIFS in February 2020. “The name change from IFSG to FIFS is a result of our recognition of this disruptive and emerging sector and its need for self-regulation to sustain growth,” John Loffhagen had said in February [emphasis ours]. Loffhagen will now serve as a strategic advisor and support FIFS on collaborations with international bodies. Loffhagen is the former legal head and advisor at IMG.
FIFS currently has 35 members, who “cumulatively account for over 99% of India’s fantasy sports market”, the federation said in a release.
The legality of fantasy sports gaming arose from legal battles in Indian courts. The first judgment that gave certain legality to fantasy sports was delivered by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in favour of Dream11 in 2017. Nevertheless, challenges have arisen before other high courts, most recently in the Rajasthan High Court. Though the Rajasthan HC dismissed allegations that Dream11 was offering gambling services, it acknowledged the role of FIFS in self-regulation of the industry in a petition disposed off in October.
The court saw the self-regulatory mechanism in a positive light. Dream11 told the court that it does not function in a “total regulatory vacuum”, and that the fantasy gaming industry self-regulates itself via FIFS. The federation — of which Dream11 is the only founding member — is a Section 8 company under the Companies Act, 2013, formed for “self-regulation and promotion of best practices in fantasy sports and contests offered in India”. Some of its members include MyTeam11, My11Circle, Fancy11, and Fancode. A high court looking upon the self-regulatory body favorably adds some credibility to it that might come in handy in future disputes.
The court acknowledged FIFS’ advertising guidelines and ombudsman mechanism for resolving customer/player grievances as part of self-regulatory mechanism. Additionally, it recognised that FIFS had some of the “most credible and distinguished board members”:
- Prof. Ratnaker Shetty, former chief administrative officer, Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI)
- Amrit Mathur, former secretary, Sports Authority of India
- AN Roy, former Director General Police, Maharashtra
- Dilip Dixit, former Additional Commissioner of Sales Tax
Additionally, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri (Retd.) serves as ombudsman.