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Players’ gamble paid off

What prompted Hockey India (HI) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, Suresh Kalmadi, to accept the players’ demands and end the recent stalemate?

india Updated: Jan 20, 2010 00:06 IST
B Shrikant

What prompted Hockey India (HI) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, Suresh Kalmadi, to accept the players’ demands and end the recent stalemate?

No, it was not the growing support for the players’ strike and ridicule that was being heaped on the administrators. It was commercial considerations that forced both the administrators and team sponsor, Sahara India, to accept the demands.

The players had actually decided to negotiate directly with a company that publicly announced its support to their cause and were planning to sign individual contracts for sponsorship, say sources close to the team.

The players had particularly liked the Rs two-crore offer by an insurance company and had decided to approach it directly, offering to sport the company's logo on their sticks at the World Cup.

“This was proposed during a meeting on January 12 after the HI delegation led by AK Mattoo left after offering Rs 25,000 per player and giving a 48-hour ultimatum,” said a team source.

“Some players had heard about the sponsorship offer and mooted the idea that they could directly talk to the company (officials) and offer to carry their logo,” said the source.

The players had also decided to convey this to the officials and had called a press conference at 11 am on Wednesday (subsequently cancelled when Dhanraj Pillay stepped in as Kalmadi’s emissary).

The move was scuttled when some hockey officials and a coach got wind of it and informed the Hockey India officials. It triggered a chain reaction as no one was sure whether Sahara's contract also included the hockey sticks.

“Sahara does have an exclusivity clause in their contract with HI because of which we can't use logos of other companies. But whether that extends to hockey sticks is not clear,” said a HI source.

Sahara India too realised a potential danger and decided to release Rs one crore immediately. Kalmadi jumped in to mediate and it was also impressed upon the players that by agreeing to Kalmadi’s offer, their demands for match fee and graded contract system could be considered.