As a triumphant men’s hockey team returned from China on Tuesday proudly bearing the Asian Champions Trophy, waiting for them was a special reward from Hockey India — a cheque for Rs 25,000 for each squad member.
The players refused to accept the cheques, calling it an insult. On Wednesday, the sports ministry made amends to some extent by announcing Rs 1.5 lakh for each player under a government scheme.
It’s been more than a year and a half since Hockey India (HI) approved a cash reward of Rs 3 lakh to each player who won an Asian-level tournament and Rs 35,000 as match fee for the tournament. Young Indian players hungry for success: NobbThis came after the players went on strike demanding money from the federation and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
The then IOA chief, Suresh Kalmadi, had personally visited the Commonwealth Games camp in Pune to break the deadlock.
According to a proposal approved at the special committee meeting on February 16 last year, a graded system of payment was accepted. Players were promised monetary incentives for winning medals - Rs 3 lakh for a victory at the Asian Games, Rs 2 lakh for the Asia Cup and Rs 1 lakh for the Commonwealth Games, respectively.
On Tuesday, the federation made a mockery of all this. And it's not for lack of money. Hockey India signed a one-year sponsorship deal with Sahara India (July 2010 to July 2011) for Rs 3.7 crore, which has been extended by six months.
So, where is the money going? Hockey India’s CEO, Elena Norman from Australia, gets a monthly salary of R2.5 lakh. The aggregate salary of other staff members is also around Rs 2.5 lakh. Hockey India's total monthly expenditure is around Rs 10 lakh.
The training and competition aspects of the team are taken care of by the sports ministry. The government also foots the coaches' bill.
“HI should reward players respectably or they should only host felicitation functions,” said former international and HI technical committee chairman Pargat Singh.
“Like the Indian cricket board, HI too should give some part of the sponsorship money to players,” said a winning-team member. “One should ask the officials where the is money going.”
HI secretary-general, Narinder Batra, justified the high salary of HI CEO Elena Norman from Australia, saying, “She takes care of all international engagements and handles important issues concerning development of hockey,” he said.