The success of Indian Premier League (IPL) has paved way for similar professional leagues to take shape in the country. Football, Hockey, Badminton, Kabaddi, Tennis et al. have succeeded in conducting successful leagues. The success rate of each of the leagues has been so good that many more are set to sprout in the near future.
Cricket’s success can’t be surprising but the runaway success of Kabaddi has really raised eyebrows. However, the situation of hockey has turned to be an issue of bother recently.
The Hockey India League (HIL) began in 2013 with a bang but appears to be struggling now. Hockey India (HI), the national governing body, had to deny rumours that the League is shutting down after reports of trouble brewing in some of the franchises emanated recently.
It has been learnt that some of the franchises are planning to back out due to lack of funds and the strain is such that even players (mostly national) have not been paid their fees.
However, Press Trust of India (PTI) in the report also quoted a top HI official in denying all that has been said in certain sections of the media. The official also confirmed of no plans to scrap the league and according to him, no franchise has sought to withdraw too. Withdrawal at this stage means the franchises stand to forfeit the bank guarantee.
The situation what we see in the HIL is indeed problematic and pathetic. Can a league which concentrates only on the northern part of the country be termed successful? There are too many instances of empty stands, reflecting on the low revenue flow.
This is one major reason for the dwindling popularity of the league.
Compounding further is the flow of funds that come from the title sponsors of the franchises. The staggering salaries paid to foreign staff and also the foreign players have eaten up the resources leaving the national players waiting for their compensation to come.Drastically cutting down on foreign elements, which appears to be in abundance, might help HIL to invest in various other sections of game development.
The purpose of HIL is to popularise and develop the game throughout the nation, but somewhere that is not happening. What we see is a system that is only interested in conducting the tournament every year and not looking beyond it. It’s high time the corporates, who are funding the franchises, check the money flow and start investing on academies in the remotest parts of the country.
Hockey India should find ways to include franchises from the southern states. One can’t understand why there are no teams from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Even a state like Kerala from where skipper P.R. Sreejesh hails doesn’t have a franchise representation.
The urban outlook is not good for the game and Hockey India should have understood that by now. A reality check will reveal that Ranchi franchise has attracted more interest than any other teams proving that rural outfits will push the game forward.
When signs of troubles have started showing up, Hockey India must find quick solutions. The governing body, who are looking for a new window in the annual calendar to slot in future seasons, must work to restore the strength of the League by ensuring more for the nationals than the foreigners.
It would be wise to have national staff (coaching and administration) for the franchises and also a maximum of four foreign players in each of the teams. The focus should be on providing the national coaches and players more exposure on a big platform rather than inviting foreigners to reap the harvest every year.
Cricket can afford so can football, but hockey doesn’t enjoy such patronage as it is evident now.
Expecting that the HIL 2018 will be on course without much ado, the story doesn’t end there. Hockey India, on the other hand, appears to be inviting trouble by their uncanny actions. Narinder Batra, who had apologised for his actions after India beat Pakistan in the HWL, sounded more like the president of International Hockey Federation (FIH) when through an official statement regretted India’s withdrawal from the inaugural FIH Pro League.2018.
This new tournament, in fact, acts like a qualifier for the Olympics and India’s withdrawal can have an impact on the national teams’ (men and women) progress to the Tokyo Games.
The reasons of pull out appear weird as it is learnt that Hockey India took the decision due to inferior ranking of the women’s team. Surprising is that the men’s team is forced to withdraw in support of women’s team. Inferior or superior – more exposure brings more experience and along with it good performances and the road to higher rankings.
Hope better sense prevails, be it for the HIL or be it the national teams, when Hockey India holds its annual general body meeting on July 24.Published 10 Jul 2017, 16:29 IST