With 32 teams in the fray and limited time and resources, the National Hockey Championship has been a nightmare, resulting in controversies over accommodation, food, transport and scheduling. There were no takers for the premier domestic competition and it was stalled for many years, making an appearance once in a while on the calendar.
In the current edition, the organisers, department of sports and youth welfare, Madhya Pradesh govt, have drawn flak over accommodation and dietary allowance despite pulling all stops and spending nearly Rs 1.5 crore. And, as if to add insult to their injuries, most of the matches in the first half have been lopsided, failing to attract crowds.
Considering these problems, Hockey India (HI) has proposed to change the format and introduce a two-tier system from next year. “As we are organising it for the first time, we decided to follow the old format. But from next year, the teams would be divided into two divisions --- Elite and Plate --- and the event would be held at different venues. Two teams will be promoted to Elite while the bottom two will be relegated,” HI secretary-general, Narinder Batra told HT on Wednesday.
This will solve a lot of problems, as organising an event for 16-17 teams would mean comparatively lesser headache. “We have to think about the organisers who are putting in so much effort. With 32 teams, we have to schedule 8-10 matches every day, involve 2-3 turfs and so many personnel. This time, the MP govt has stepped in, but next time, we may not be so lucky with this format,” said Batra.
Batra said HI would itself organise the event if the format changes. However, it would be easier said than done, as HI will first have to get the clearance of the affiliated units.
Similar attempts to bifurcate the Nationals by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) had been shot down by state associations in the past. They argued that this would create a divide and those in the lower division would be ignored for the national team. And, in the electoral politics of Indian sports administration, the affiliate units usually have their way.