Remember World Series Cricket? Kerry Packer’s audacious TV-funded move to reshape world cricket caused a massive split in the late 1970s with top players being lured away from the ‘official’ test sides? Is the same about to happen with hockey?
The Times of India reports that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has branded Indian World Series Hockey (WSH) as an “unofficial tournament planned by an unofficial body”.
The trouble my well spread outside of India with the cashed-up league also targeting top European stars. But the ramifications look most serious in the sub-continent where the league will amplify existing tensions in the sport and where contention for players could affect preparations for an all-important Olympic qualification tournament for India, likely to take place in early 2012.
Many of India’s stars, including skipper Rajpal Singh and defender Sardar Singh, have already signed up to play in the league, due to start towards the end of 2011.
The new league will also keep open the national running sore of the split between the FIH-recognised Hockey India (HI) and the government-recognised Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). The IHF is backing the new league where hefty funding from Nimbus Sport and marketing of TV rights and sponsorships are expected to push some player’s payments to more than £70,000 in the first year.
Battles between the IHF and HI have kept the Indian courts busy for over a year and at times only last minute compromises over who would select teams has enabled India to compete at all internationally. HI has already expressed its concerns with World Series Hockey and now the FIH has waded into the controversy.
The Times of India reports FIH president Leandro Negre as saying tournaments where Hockey India was not involved would not be recognised by the world body.
“We recognise only Hockey India and that has been made clear to everybody on many occasions in the past. For us, Indian Hockey Federation ceased to exist long back. It is not an official body and has no authority to run tournaments of this stature. So the tournament it has planned is not official,” Negre said.
Negre said the FIH would officially communicate its stand to all top hockey playing nations in the world and expect the national sports federations to endorse its stand.
“The national federations are responsible organisations and we hope they will stop their players from figuring in this league,” he told the Times of India.
When pointed out that the Supreme Court was yet to deliver its verdict on which body – HI or IHF – would govern the game in India, Negre said: “That is India’s internal matter. As of now, FIH’s stand is clear. The league is unofficial.”
The FIH had earlier announced plans for it’s own ‘World League Hockey’ competition, based around national teams, to start in 2011.