Here’s a thought for the next time you go out for a family dinner at a nice restaurant and pick up the Rs 5000 tab without demur — that’s how much a hockey player will get paid for playing for India.
And no, this isn’t a not-so-funny joke. The only time an India player will get more? Like on Thursday, when they lost to Spain 2-4 in a World Cup game. The exception to the Rs. 5000 match fee is for the quadrennial mega events — the Olympics and the World Cup — and for the annual Champions Trophy, if India make it. Then it’s Rs. 10,000 per game.
The Hindustan Times first broke the news of the new system of gradation and match fees mooted by Hockey India on Thursday. This system also gives a player in the top pay bracket (called A*) --- those with 150+ India caps --- an additional 50% of the match fee per game.
This means the maximum a top player who plays all 45 to 50 India games in a year (unlikely, but for the sake of hypothesis we will take that figure for the maximum number of games possible in an Olympic or World Cup year and pretend injuries etc do not happen) will earn for representing the country is between Rs. 3.37 to 3.75 lakh. Most will earn far less.
This incidentally — even though the comparison is not quite fair given how much the Indian cricket board rakes in — is approximately how much a cricketer earns by playing a single Test and ODI. Cricketers get about Rs. 1.6 lakh for a one-dayer and 2 lakh per Test.
The country’s top shooters get between Rs six to 18 lakh per year for the next four years as per the graded system offered by Sahara India, who sponsor shooting. Sahara also sponsor boxing and wrestling, resulting in a variable graded system that sees them getting between Rs two to 13 lakh per year for the next four years.
“Right now we have limited funding, so we are offering a limited amount. But as we get more sponsorship money we will definitely increase the match fee,” said a Hockey India official.
But while some say that it’s “better than nothing”, others bemoan the lack of any marketing strategy or planning by the hockey association. “India have won both the hockey and cricket World Cups once each. But see the difference in the status of both games. If there is no money in hockey, the fault lies within us. We failed to market the sport properly,” said the 1975 World Cup winning team member Col. Harcharan Singh.
“By giving Rs 10,000 (for World Cup games) Hockey India is humiliating players. It is in no way sufficient for a tournament like the World Cup, the players get to play in such tournaments only once in four years and if they miss any match, they won't even get that,” said former national coach and Olympian Joaquim Carvalho.
Terming it less than the “laundry money” spent by administrators on foreign tours, Carvalho added, "The federation gets grants from the government for sending teams to these competitions, they have a sponsor, they should market the game better and pay the players better. I think match fees should be at least Rs 50,000.”
Moreover, due to incessant infighting, the federation lost a golden opportunity to pay its players more. A senior Hockey India official confirmed that Hero Honda was willing to sponsor the team for Rs 13 crore per year but due to a previous agreement between the Indian Hockey Federation and Sahara India (in which rights were sold very cheap) and the issue dragging in the Calcutta High Court; the multi-crore deal could not be finalised.
Sahara gets to sponsor the team (men and women) for a comparatively low Rs three crore a year.