Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 02:58:24

IHF-Hi Agreement Will This Bizarre Pact Work?

Updated: August 13, 2011 1:13 pm

Indian sports officials have a great survival instinct. They can twist any rule, compromise their stated positions just to stay put in the office. Running a sports federation in the country has become a very lucrative business and nobody in power wants to give it up, come what may. This became abundantly clear when Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI) signed a so-called agreement after eight-hour-long marathon meeting on July 25 just to avoid Government’s wrath.

Government had served an ultimatum to IHF and HI to merge by July 25 or be ready to face consequence and two factions which were involved in ‘no hold borred war’ closed their ranks just to ward off the sports ministry’s threat. The agreement, which was scoffed at by the Indian Olympic Association as bizarre and unacceptable, was hailed by the sports ministry as a step forward.

Though the two factions insisted that they had inked the agreement keeping in view the interest of the game, it was in fact a survival pact by the officials who wanted to cling to the their respective seats. The two warring factions produced a kitsch which left everybody bewildering as what the future for the game in the country. The two bodies will work under an arrangement which will continue till December 2012. However, both the factions agreed to disagree on the merger which government had demanded.

Under the arrangement, there will be a Joint Working Committee of eight members which will take the final decision. And also a joint executive board of 39 members and HI will have 20 members in the 39-member executive committee while the remaining 19 will be from the IHF. The working committee will consists of two co-chairpersons—R.K.Shetty (IHF) and Ms M Koshy (HI) and will have three members each from two factions.

“There will be a chairman and co-chairman of the working committee, one each from HI and IHF. The chairman and the co-chairman will have equal powers,” HI’s General Secretary Narendra Batra said. But IHF general secretary Ashok Mathur asserted that there will be two co-chairpersons and not a chairperson and a co-chairperson. The two factions agreed to jointly work on four aspects—organising National Championships, preparation and selection of national team and participation in international tournaments. “Since HI is the recognised body by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), it will be responsible for any communication to the world body after a decision is taken by the joint working committee,” Batra added.

Both IHF President RK Shetty and Batra claimed that they were happy with the discussions and the arrangements. “The discussions were fruitful. We expect a robust administration now with both bodies coming together on core issues. I and Batra are hopeful that we will have a good working relationship during this period and contribute to the development of hockey,” Shetty said.

“It was important for the two federations to come together for the sake of hockey. There was a lot of confusion in the hockey fraternity, the players etc, with the two federations working independently,” Batra was more candid saying that neither HI nor IHF will be responsible for the contractual obligations of the other party.

However, there is no gainsaying the fact that HI which had earlier adopted belligerent stances conceded lots of ground to IHF. It agreed not to disturb the lucrative World Series Hockey (WSH) which earlier it had refused to recognise and had even got the support of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on the issue.

The IHF-organised WSH was a bone of contention as it is not sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation, which was planning to hold another league with HI as partner. Both IHF and HI will go ahead with their leagues now. Now WSH will start in December this year, with prize money of $ 2 million and a total investment of Rs 125 crore. HI also agreed not to take disciplinary action against five top players who had left the campo at Bangalore, without permission to attend the launch of the WSH in Mumbai.

 We don’t accept this bizarre “live-in relationship”—VK Malhotra

 The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has expectedly rejected the agreement between the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI) describing it as a bizarre “live-in” relationship. IOA acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the whole agreement worked out at the behest of sports ministry is a monumental exercise in confusion and futility.

He said IOA will never accept two federations for one discipline in the country. “We don’t want to open a Pandora box which will lead to a total chaos in Indian sports” IOA will only recognise one federation for one game and unless a unified body is formed to run hockey, it will not be acceptable,” He said.

He said IOA will never accept two co chairpersons for one federation as “this is not feasible and workable”. Prof Malhotra said that he wondered whose “brain child” is this agreement because it has produced deformed child. “How two separate entities can will run a single sport,” he asked and said sports ministry should have pondered it over before hailing it as an “significant way forward.”

IOA is disturbed at this agreement because it is way forward for destablising the sports in the country. The so-called agreement is a blatant act enforced by the sports minister who wants to earn some brownie points. (HSB)

What made HI to concede so many demands at the eleventh hour is not known but according to insiders, its officials did not want to reopen the issue of payments made during the World Cup to FIH, which IHF was threatening to do.

The main challenge for the two bodies is to arrive at a consensus on use of funds, given by the Sports Ministry. How they will agree on thorny issues will decide the actual success of this interim arrangement? Ironically before this agreement IHF had been unsparing in its criticism of the HI, IOA and FIH accusing them of hatching conspiracy against it.

Former IHF chief KPS Gill was very harsh in his comments on the FIH, and IOA saying it was a dubious act of FIH and IOA to form the Hockey India. He was unsparing in his criticism of the FIH, saying as a world body, it had failed to market the game to make it commercially viable and claimed that IHF alone has come out with a plan to promote and popularize the game and market it so that the players could get the money.

“IHF on many occasions had refused to accept FIH’s unfair demands and diktats which ultimately made them to realise that relationship with IHF would not be smooth. They found a like minded friend in the IOA to conspire about the change and thereafter illegal acts of this nexus started giving shape to their nefarious design of forming Hockey India with the active support of the Ministry of Sports,” he said.

But before discussing the administrative set up, let us look at the national squad and its performance. It is no gainsaying the fact that Indian hockey team is the most travelled sporting squad in the world with minimum of results.

After Indian Olympic Association (IOA) took over the affairs of Games from Indian Hockey federation (IHF) in late 2008, and then set up Hockey India (HI) to run this sport, the travel agents dealing with the team has never had it so good. In the process, hockey team set few records and precedents which are unlikely to be matched by any other team (s). Under the guise of preparing the team for the Senior World Cup, Common wealth and Asian Games, Indian team flew here and there, and almost everywhere. Players kept on changing but there was hardly any change among the officials accompanying the team.

The expensive Indian campaign ended disastrously in all these competitions. It suffered the humiliation of finishing 7th in the World Cup and getting thrashed 0-8 by Australia in the final of the Commonwealth Games. India also could not directly qualify for London Olympics, having finished 3rd in the Asian Games, and no official (s), who have been travelling with the team to earn their frequent flier points have been questioned about team’s dismal showing.

The Sports Ministry has meanwhile acted swiftly as it directed the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to select the foreign coach for the team which it did on an urgent basis and appointed 57-year old Australian Olympian Michael Nobbs as coach till the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The young minister then virtually read out the riot act to HI and IHF saying merge or face the consequence. Both the factions were fully aware that they could not run the game without government’s assistance hence this patch up agreement.

 By Harpal Singh Bedi




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