By Mihir Vasavda
Despite the many hiccups in the build-up to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre had said he would have no hesitation in returning to the subcontinent with another major tournament.
"There may be a few issues here and there, but we can deal with them. We will return to India with more events. Why? Because the money is here," he had said.
As it turns out, the veteran Spanish administrator has kept his word. The FIH announced its 2015-2018 tournament cycle on Friday and India has been awarded four major tournaments: the 2015 World League final, 2016 junior World Cup, 2017 World League final and 2018 senior World Cup.
That effectively means that apart from the Champions Trophy and women's events, India will be playing host to all FIH events in the next five years. It must be mentioned that the country is also hosting the junior World Cup next month, the inaugural World League final in January along with the Champions Trophy next year.
Hardly will you see the distribution of major tournaments so inclined towards one nation in any other sport. The FIH says by awarding India these tournaments, they want to revive the sport in the country. However, after closely observing the financial success of the Hockey India League (HIL) as well as the successful hosting of other major tournaments in the last few years, the FIH seems to have realised that the Indian 'market' has much more potential than they imagined.
The international body has bent several rules to accommodate India at its major tournaments: expanding the field for Champions Trophy from six to eight, awarding Olympic qualifiers last year and January's World League final are a few examples. One can understand where FIH's generosity stems from. Only Holland comes close to matching India's ability to generate huge sponsorship and telecast revenue while rest of the hockey world — be it Australia or Germany — continues to bleed dry.