In a bid to bring about a “hockey revolution”, the international hockey federation (FIH) executive board has chalked out a 10-year programme (2019-2028) where 7-9 top teams will play on a home-and-away basis, and the top two will qualify for the Olympics.
The new FIH president, Narinder Batra, said the world governing body, however, will also continue with the regular qualification tournaments, the Hockey World League and the continental championships like Asian Games.
“This will lead to better commerce in hockey. The aim is to increase revenue as well as expand the boundaries of the sport and take it to countries in Africa, Pan-Am, and more Asian and Oceania nations,” Batra said on Tuesday.
The announcement evoked memories of Jagmohan Dalmiya talking about globalisation of cricket when he became the International Cricket Council (ICC) president in 1997 and taking it to countries like China, where the sport was as alien as kabaddi, in which precious little has been achieved apart from their competing in the Asian Games.
“We ought to have more than 12-14 teams vying for a spot in the Olympics. This will be the key to global appeal for hockey.”
The ‘home-and-away’ leagues will be a weekend affair, played over a period of six months, “at the end of which the two toppers will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games”.
Batra dropped hints that the elite Champions Trophy was history. He said the event “may have to be discontinued for the benefit of other events”.
Shedding light on his future as Hockey India chief, Batra said he would have to relinquish his other four posts immediately. “I am president of HI, also head the Jammu and Kashmir Hockey Association (JKHA), am chairman of the Hockey India League (HIL) and vice-president of Asian Hockey Federation. Of these, I will immediately step down from the posts in JKHA and AHF.
As and when the new HI chief is elected (should be in a fortnight), I will quit as its chief as well,” he said.
Batra also said the 2018 edition of the HIL will have seven teams with Jindal Steel the latest to buy a franchise. Its final will be held in Bengaluru.
Batra said Yuvraj Valmiki and Amit Gowda have been suspended for four months for misbehaving with umpires during the inaugural five-a-side national championships held in Mumbai recently. They will not be able to take part in the next edition of HIL.