The Delhi High Court order passed on Friday would be a huge relief for the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and its chief KPS Gill. However, it leaves Indian hockey in a state of suspended animation.
With the High Court setting aside the suspension and disaffiliation of IHF by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Sports Ministry, there are two bodies claiming the right to control hockey — the IHF and Hockey India. The IOA and sports ministry recognize Hockey India, which has also received temporary affiliation from the International Hockey Federation (FIH). Hockey India is a registered body and will continue to exist till it is disbanded by IOA, its parent body.
Hockey India in turn has granted affiliation to some state units. New bodies have been formed in most of the states too.
Though KPS Gill is obviously bullish, he can’t select teams for the Women’s World Cup, the Commonwealth or the Asian Games, as the FIH does not recognize IHF. The international body’s affiliation was with Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC), with IHF and Indian Women’s Hockey Federation (IWHF) as its constituents. The FIH had rejected this model in 2008 and sought a proper merger of men’s and women’s associations even at state level.
So IHF can’t put up a team for international tournaments till FIH settles the affiliation issue. “The FIH will not make any comment at this stage,” the world body’s communication manager, Arjen Meijer told HT after the Delhi High Court verdict. The IOA and Hockey India too did not react, while a sports ministry spokesman said it would react only after going through the order.
So what is the way forward?
“I think it is time for both IOA and IHF to sit together and thrash out a solution. Both need to come to a compromise as Hockey India has failed to deliver and it is time to set things in order. The sports ministry needs to facilitate this meeting,” said K Krishnamurthy, secretary of the Karnataka State Hockey Association.
The stakeholders should set up a unified body for both men and women – with affiliated units of both IHF and IWHF merging at state level -- and transfer the HI affiliation to it. The FIH then grant affiliation to this new body.
The IOA and the ministry can challenge the decision, but, considering the procedural lapses on their part, as listed by the HC, their doing so is not guaranteed.
“All three bodies should put aside their differences and egos. KPS Gill needs to agree on a proper merger while IOA needs to realize their mistakes in the way the HI affiliation was carried out and agree to set aside HI,” said another state association official. The ball is in now in the IOA’s court.