May 27, 2021

47th FIH Congress: The Aftermath

Dr. Narinder Batra retains FIH presidency

47th FIH Congress ended couple of days ago with a result that surprised lot of people in the hockey community. Dr Narinder Batra, the incumbent president of FIH was once again elected with the narrowest of margin. 

Though Dr. Batra has won the election, but the job has become tougher for him due to the margin of win along with the voices of the hockey community. Here are some things we feel that Dr. Batra needs to address in his second team and win confidence of international hockey community. 

Finances: The biggest matter of concern for worldwide hockey community was the way finances were handled by during Dr. Batra's first tenure as FIH President. the audited accounts of 2019 have shown substantial losses. With Covid wreaking havoc on 2020 and 2021 season, hockey fans are not expecting much from FIH financial results this time around as well. Dr. Batra and his team will have to show how do turn the things around and show profits for FIH. 

Hockey 5s: The second biggest worry for hockey fans is the way Hockey 5s are being prioritized by FIH. Many in the hockey fraternity see it as direct competition to both the traditional 11v11 and indoor hockey format. Dr. Batra's speech post winning the presidency has also left a sour taste in their mouth after Dr. spoke about his vision of having Hockey 5s in the Olympics. Announcement of World Cup, even when the format is in infancy has added fuel to the fire for the purists who do not want to move away from traditional 11v11 format. No doubt, Hockey 5s have its merits but its time, FIH comes clean and explains their vision of Hockey 5s compared to traditional formats. 

Pro League: What was once pushed as next grandiose thing in hockey is turning out to be a sore eye in the eyes of fans and players. Cluttered fixtures, negative impact on domestic competitions is just couple of examples where the Pro League displeased fans. With both India and Pakistan missing out to inaugural edition of the tournament due to varied reasons also added to the has made Pro League the biggest money guzzler. Not to forget, the questions of exclusiveness that annoys the fans from countries outside Pro League. Currently, Pro League is a closed competition with top 9 countries. Teams like Ireland and France that had improved their game in last 3-4 years are not part of this tournament. It's time for Dr. Batra and his company to think if they wish to continue to Pro League of cut their losses. 

India angle: When the hosts of 2023 Men World Cup was announced, many fans asked this question, ‘Why is the tournament being awarded to country again?’ India hosted 2018 World Cup and is also going to host 2023 World Cup. With 2023 World Cup, India would have hosted last three of four World Cups. This has also not sat down well with hockey fans. No doubt, the Government machinery does a wonderful job of hosting the World Cup and makes it easier for organizers and FIH to get what they want, it still beats the purpose. Hosting Hockey World Cups at the same location is counterproductive and would surely not help in pulling new fans. Now that decision has been made to host 2023 World Cup in India, its time, FIH finds a way to promote the game in other nations as well. 

Commitment: A lot has been said about Dr. Batra’s corrupt practices on social media. While there has been no proof shared with the hockey community, it does raise question on functioning of FIH under his presidency. Apart from being FIH president, Dr. Batra also heads the Indian Olympic Association that has led to many people questioning his commitment to the FIH. With monetary loss, failing Pro League and pandemic unleashing commotion on international hockey, Dr. Batra would surely have to pull up his socks and avoid the trouble that is mounting for FIH.  

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