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FIH Should Know India Is Not A Banana Republic

Updated: August 28, 2010 11:40 am

With the merger of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Indian Women Hockey Federation (IWHF), one of the sordid chapters in the history of the National game has hopefully came to an end. Before this merger took place one was wonderstruck by the open aggression of the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

                The International body was openly challenging the authority of the sovereign government and was threatening India with all sorts of consequences. Of course it was doing so because it had a support from some vested interests in the country. However, it will have to give up before the law of the land. The FIH never had so good both financially and politically till it hit the jackpot in New Delhi. The world cup held at the newly built Dhayan Chand Hockey Stadium was resounding success, though India finished eighth but FIH had its purse filled to the brim. Never in recent times FIH was able to get as many sponsors and as many viewers as it got in New Delhi and top of it, the infighting in the Indian hockey setup gave the FIH officials chance to lord over the hosts.

                It was this unprecedented financial success that made FIH look for more and it announced on its own that it is planning to hold the World Club Cup Hockey Tournament in India from this year. Surprisingly, It also announced that New Delhi will be the venue of the 2011 Champions Trophy, though India has not qualified for it. Only top six teams are eligible to play in the Champions Trophy and India at present is ranked number nine in the world and has to go through the motion of qualifying via Champions Challenge trophy to be eligible for the main trophy.

                But by virtue of being the host, India automatically gets a place in the 2011 Champions Trophy. How FIH will adjust the other top six teams only it knows. There is a possibility that number of teams for that particular tournament be increased as it was done twice earlier when Chennai and Kuala Lumpur were allotted this tournament.

                One can understand FIH’s bid to popularise the game in the subcontinent and earn the money but what baffled the sports buffs was the World body’s blatant interference in the affair of Indian Hockey.

                The FIH held the World Cup, without India having an elected hockey body, that time it gave a plea that it (FIH) was bound by the law of the land as several court cases were pending before the various high courts about the Hockey Federation. But once World Cup was over, FIH started putting pressure on the Indian authorities to speed up the election process and in the process virtually started dictating terms. FIH vice president Antonia von Ondarza started behaving like a viceroy even challangeing the government’s authority. The Sports Ministry had made it clear that government will recognise only those federations which will abide by and accept its guidelines. It granted temporary recognition to Hockey India (HI) with specific instruction that it will have to accept the guidelines.

                However, HI rejected the government guidelines, submitted an affidavit before the returning officer that it is an independent body not dependent on government’s financial help and needs no government support. With this affidavit to show, HI went ahead with its election in which 83-year-old Vidya Stokes defeated Olympian Pargat Singh to become the president and Narinder Batra was elected secretary.

                The government reacted strongly and swiftly, and with couple of hours of the elections withdrew its recognition to HI for violating its guidelines, however before doing that government had sent HI a show cause notice asking it to explain why it should not be de-recognised in the wake of their declaration before the Delhi High Court that they are a private body.

                The Sports Ministry in a letter to both president and secretary general of HI terminated the provisional recognition. According to the letter, HI in its reply said that they are a private body because it is autonomous and independent of the government, which not a cause should be for de-recognition. In a strong letter Sports Ministry made it clear that, “HI has derived its entire authority only after government gave clearance to them for using the name of ‘Hockey India’ and to register themselves as an NSF to direct, control and regulate the sport of hockey in India.”

                “Further, HI duly accepted the conditions attached to that recognition and also sought the clearance of the government for holding their elections. But their subsequent refusal to abide by the government guidelines has made them liable for de-recognition,” the letter issued by the government under secretary Shankar Lal said.

                “As per the government guidelines, of which the May 1st, 2010 order is an integral part, no NSF can represent the country in international forum without the government recognition whether or not it receives government grants,” the letter read further.

               ADVANTAGE IHF!

At the outset, I wish to clarify that our letter was aimed at apprising FIH of the recent developments leading to the recognition of Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) as the sole National Sports Federation (NSF) for Hockey in India, in the light of the Court Orders, which has been accepted by both lOA and HI. Moreover, HI have declared before the Courts, including the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, that they are a Private Body and not amenable to Writ Jurisdiction. Since the functions of an NSF fall within the realm of public duties, it is not tenable for a Private Body to carry out these activities.

                It may be noted that consequent upon de-recognition of HI, the Registrar of Societies of Delhi, with whom HI are registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, has been duly advised to withdraw permission from the society for the use of the name of ‘Hockey India’, which conveys the impression of government recognition or patronage. Please note that under the Names and Emblem Act, 1950, no society can use the name of the Union without the approval of the Union Government. Since HI stands de-recognized and is no more authorized to function as the NSF for Hockey in India, it has to change its name and revise its Memorandum of Association to fit with its private character. The Registrar of Societies has been informed accordingly.

                Please note that authority for any association to represent, India in any international association comes within the ambit of the Union Government as per the Constitution of India. Hence, it is the responsibility of the Sports Ministry to grant recognition to NSFs in the country. It is in this context that we had advised you not to deal with HI under the impression that it is the recognized NSF for Hockey in India.

                We fully appreciate and respect the Statute of FIH, and there is no question of the Government compelling FIH to act in violation of their Statute. Our letter of August 6th, 2010 clearly states that IHF and IWHF have been asked to amalgamate into a single society in accordance with the provisions of the Society Registration Act, 1860. This is a legal process that takes a minimum of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. Once they complete this, they would become compliant with the requirements of FIH and only then, would they approach FIR for recognition. In your letter under reference, you have written that IWHF have already merged into HI in 2008, which is factually not correct. HI and IWHF are the two distinct societies even now, and there can be no merger without going through the legal process required to be undergone as per the relevant provisions of the Societies Registration Act. As a matter of fact, IHF has given an undertaking before the Delhi High Court today that IWHF and IHF will amalgamate into a single society as per Law, which has been noted by the Court.

                In view of the above mentioned facts, we once again seek the understanding and cooperation of FIH in the matter. The formation of an NSF for any sport lies is within the domain of the country concerned, and the International Federation should not get directly involved in that process. However, it is prerogative of the FIH to see whether the body so recognized is compliant with its Constitution and only then grant recognition to such body. We assure you that IHF will become fully compliant with the Constitution of FIH, and therefore, the past should not be brought into the picture to affect the future of Hockey in India, which is popularly perceived as the national sport.

                As already explained, HI has lost its national character and therefore can not be allowed to select or field the national team any more. We, therefore, once again request FIH to reconsider their decision and allow the lOA or the Sports Authority of India to field the Indian team in international competitions recognized by FIH, pending IHF becoming fully compliant with and gaining the recognition of FIH.

Excerpts from the letter written to FIH president by Joint Secretory of MoS

HI’s contention was that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has recoganised it, thus only it can represent the country in international competitions.

                HI contended that the government recognition is, “no more than a ministerial act for the purpose of extending financial assistance, which HI is not seeking anymore”. It asserted that since matters relating to recognition, the conduct of elections, and the scope of the applicability of the government guidelines are sub-judice before the Supreme Court of India and High Court of Delhi, no action may be taken pending disposal of the matter by the Court. While rejecting this plea the ministry took the tough stand, “Unlike the normal practice where National Sports Federations (NSFs) are independent of the IOA, HI was registered by the IOA. HI was recognised by the government under very compelling circumstances.”

                “The very fact that it was promoted by the IOA contradicts the present claim of HI of being a private body. However, since HI has refused to accept its public character and has failed to abide by the government guidelines, it cannot continue to enjoy the government recognition.”

                The Sports Ministry also told FIH president Leandro Negre, not to interfere in the internal affairs of the NSF and urged him not to assign any international tournament, or have any commercial dealings with HI.

                “HI is no more the recognised national sports federation for the management, control and promotion of hockey in the country, and it is also not authorised to select and field the national team in international competitions,” the Ministry cited in the letter.

                It also asked FIH to permit the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) or the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to field the Indian team for international tournaments. The Sports Ministry also informed the FIH that “The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), which was suspended by the IOA in 2008, was deemed to be the ‘only recognised body’ by the Delhi High Court in its judgment on May 21.”

                Following that order, IHF’s affiliation with the IOA was reinstated. Taking a note of this, the government restored the recognition to the IHF and has told the international governing body that IHF has started the process of unification of the men’s and women’s body and will approach FIH for recognition very soon.

                IOA joint secretary Lalit Bhanot said the IOA will take up this matter later as it was too tied up with the Commonwealth Games. But to the surprise of all FIH vice president Antonio von Ondarza made it clear that they will recognise only HI, “We have de-recognised it way back in 2000,” he said. Acting swiftly the Sports Ministry asked the KPS Gill-led IHF to started merger proceedings with the Indian Women’s Hockey Federation (IWHF) to strengthen its claim for being the sole representative body for the sport in the country. And that merger took place on August 12 and the unified hockey body has decided to hold its elections in the first week of October.

                “We have fulfilled the pre-requisites for getting the FIH recognition,” said IWHF secretary Amrit Bose. “The pre-condition was having a single body for both the men’s and women’s hockey and at the IHF and IWHF meeting we accepted this norm.”

                “We have merged as per the government guidelines. We have completed the formalities.” she said. IHF, which has supported Sports Ministry’s age and tenure-limitation guidelines, has the government’s backing, “Now I am confident that FIH will not deal with HI any more as it has lost its national character and IHF and IWHF have merged,” she added. However, the FIH’s attitude has miffed most of the people. They have started asking why the World Body was first allowed to virtually take over country’s hockey administration.

                Former Olympian Ashok Kumar wanted to know whether FIH will take the same stand vis-a-vis Pakistan. “We are ruled by our laws and FIH should respect that, we are not a banana republic and this should be told to the FIH in no uncertain terms,” said another former International player.

                IHF chief KPS Gill was confident that FIH will recognise his federation as “We go by the law of the land and government has recognised us,” Gill promised a better and bright future for the Indian hockey and urged the FIH to help India rebuild its national game.

By Harpal Singh Bedi



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