Hockey India (HI) secretary-general Narinder Batra’s outburst that it would be difficult to send the team to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Asian Games at Incheon if the sports ministry didn’t release money to the ‘cash-strapped’ federation promptly, would have caught quite a few aficionados off-guard.
Hockey is one of the most pampered disciplines in India, perhaps even more than shooting or wrestling, which have brought India more medals and popularity in recent times. But despite hockey’s slide, it continues to get a sizeable chunk of the grants from the ministry.
So, HI’s missives to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) that its coffers are running dry — it has only Rs 31 lakh left out of a total allocation of Rs 10.5 crore to manage the CWG and Asian Games assignments — sent alarm bells ringing.
HI is one of the country’s few national federations, which have attracted decent sponsorships. With Sahara and Cairn India on board and guaranteed annual sponsorship amounts of Rs 8.5 crore, it is strange that HI has raised the red flag.
Sponsorship money is one of the grey areas in Indian sports where federations don’t disclose how they expend corporate money. There is no player-welfare scheme or graded system of contract in place, as in cricket, which could be eating into HI’s profits.
In fact, the non-implementation of the graded system of payment and match fees were the main reasons for players going on strike before the 2010 World Cup.
At that time, assurances were given, and players mollified. But nothing happened for two years. After India qualified for the London Olympics, HI set up a committee to fix the graded system as per international caps. Again, two years elapsed and nothing concrete has come out of the exercise.
What HI did, though, was it started giving a monthly stipend of Rs 10,000 each to the junior players. But, for the seniors, who should have received a minimum annual package of Rs 10 lakh each, nothing has been done.
With vote politics supposedly high on the agenda, HI started doling out Rs 5 lakh each to its affiliated state units for the “promotion of sport”. Some units continue to receive grants even though they have failed to field players or teams in the nationals, or have shown little or no improvement in the quality of hockey.
It is a known fact that the expenditure incurred on training national teams, their international exposure trips, salaries to foreign experts, etc are borne by the government. So, where is the money allocated to HI going? Ever if a situation arises where HI is running low on funds, it does have corporate money to fall back upon. Shocking statements, like the team might have to be withdrawn from the Commonwealth or Asian Games will only accentuate the crisis.
For now, Batra might have clarified that the “Commonwealth Games issue has been resolved and that the preparatory camp has started”, but what about the more pressing questions on sponsorship money, about the Rs 10.5 crore government grant?
“Right now, I cannot comment on this. Once I return to India, I will talk on the issue,” he told HT.