Saturday, July 17, 2010

No end in sight to Indian hockey's woes

Indian hockey
BANGALORE: The hockey imbroglio in the country is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon and the fraternity is destined to endure multiple federations grappling with administration for at least the next six months.

With the Commonwealth and Asian Games, scheduled in October and November this year, the Union sports ministry is left with little or no time to restore order in hockey administration. A solution, if possible, may be attempted in the new year by bringing these rival bodies to the negotiation table.

The die is cast, in fact, with the Hockey India election on July 28 but to those wondering how the two warring bodies can run the show in the country without stepping on to each other's toes, the message from the sports ministry is that at this point in time, the only decisive factor that should govern every move is player welfare and nothing else.

In fact, the ministry has given Hockey India given a conditional no-objection tag. One, HI will be bound by the 2001 guidelines on tenure and age, which they have accepted. Two, they have been told that they should not harm the interests of any player choosing to turn out in the National championships organised by Indian Hockey Federation to which they have replied in the affirmative.

At the same time, teams for international events will continue to be selected by Hockey India as they have the recognition of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) but without any bias against players who figured in the IHF Nationals.

So what pushed the ministry into backing Hockey India elections?

Ministry officials aren't revealing much but the drift is that the threat from the FIH to bar India from the women's World Cup in August-September and the two multi-sport events at the end of the year might have forced the decision. Having done that, the ministry also felt election was the way forward as it had always maintained - and submitted to the court as well on a previous occasion - that it did not recognise Hockey India in its present form - an unelected body comprising a handful of people.

While Hockey India elections and the ministry's backing have come a shock to the KPS Gill-led body, the ministry argues that in the May 2010 ruling, only its 2009 order derecognising the IHF was quashed by the High Court. Nowhere has it been implied in the ruling, which favoured the IHF, that the recognition to Hockey India has been quashed, it feels.

Understandably, this interpretation does not address the core issue of forming a single national federation. But obviously, the FIH threat, the two major events and the fact that a registered society cannot be prevented from holding election for long, have played big roles in prompting the move.

What next? India will have to bear with two federations — both promoting the game but only one continuing to represent Indian hockey at the FIH till the situation changes.

But not for long though as government guidelines mandate only one ruling body for each sport. But for that to happen, India may have to wait until the Commonwealth and Asian Games are over. And, of course, hope that wiser counsel prevails when the hockey factions get ready for negotiations.

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