Chennai: The mess continues.
The complications have multiplied. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
This is the poignant picture of hockey administration in the country. Any hopes that the August 5 elections would put a full stop to the enduring non-governance evaporated moments after the results panned out.
Somewhat expectedly, the Sports Ministry pulled the plug of recognition to Hockey India (HI) citing non-compliance of guidelines. That triggered a move of missives to the FIH which responded predictably. The appeal to ignore HI was neatly phrased containing expressions like “very compelling circumstances,” “instantly made NSF,” “no legitimate track record.”
How these facts escaped the Ministry's notice when the HI was formed in 2008 is beyond comprehension. The guiding factor obviously is the judgement upholding the appeal by IHF that its suspension by IOA was against the canons of natural justice.
The exchanges between the Ministry and FIH reflect the dichotomy about HI. The Ministry is clear, that HI, in its present matrix, does not enjoy its approval. It also noted that the IHF headed by K.P.S. Gill has the claim to govern on the strength of a court order, which neither the Ministry nor the IOA has contested. The Ministry has also assured that a unified body would be in place in conformity with the FIH statutes.
In response, the FIH conveyed, rather firmly, its reluctance to deal with any body other than HI.
What baffles everyone is the assertion that the IHF does not exist in its reckoning since 2000 and that the Indian Hockey Confederation failed to meet the requirements of the statutes.
If that is so why did the top brass in FIH maintain contact with the men's and women's units, allow the national teams to take part in premier events like the Olympics in 2004, World Cups in 2002 and 2006, allot men's Champions Trophy to Chennai, and importantly, sign the contract with IHF for the World Cup in India in 2006, to the point of even forming a provisional tournament committee.
The argument that IHF was not a constituent since 2000 sounds hollow. More so is the FIH threat of prohibiting India from the ambit of international competitions. If it were to do so, then FIH should have named the reserve team by now, with less than three weeks to go for the women's World Cup in Rosario (Argentina).
The Ministry's letter makes it clear how impermissible it will be for HI to function within the framework of norms governing NSFs. It is well known that not even a few in the voters' list on August 5 have the clout in their respective States to run competitions, or enjoy the support of the clubs.
The established units that were conducting local leagues and tournaments with the support of State Governments cannot be eliminated just to fulfil an FIH stipulation.
It is nobody's case that these associations, or even the federation, were impeccable in upholding the tenets of democracy and tenure elections. But at least they ensured enough activity across the country. In the circumstances, the meeting scheduled on Thursday involving the IHF and IWHF members assumes significance. This is a splendid window of opportunity.
Backed as they are by a court verdict and support from Sports Ministry, the members should sink all differences to make the meeting meaningful. They must effect a quick merger adhering to the guidelines in letter and spirit.
The conclave should also pitch upon a set of new office-bearers, or at least nominate a provisional group which will eventually take over. The administrative unit should have a fresh team to garner adequate financial and sponsorship support, an administrative apparatus that is proficient and professional and, above all, a programme acceptable to the players.
The FIH is unlikely to relent immediately. It needs to be persuaded to see the reality of the harm it is doing to the sport in the biggest market in the world by remaining inimical to a national government and standing behind a unit, that has declared itself a private entity.