At last some sanity seems to have prevailed and World’s No. 5 Men’s hockey team, the Indian team, will finally be a part of the prestigious FIH Pro League from the next year 2020.
The year 2020 will mark the second season of the six-month-long league, which is played on a home and away format, with each team playing the other once at home and other away. India was the only team amongst the top 10, to have pulled out of the inaugural edition, which began in January.
In July 2017, when the idea of such a tournament was mooted, Hockey India had decided to withdraw both the men’s and women’s national teams from the competition.
Though the Hockey India never gave any official reason for sitting on the fence but it was speculated that the inferior ranking of the women’s team prompted India to pullout from both the competitions as it was felt that sending just one team would be a costly affair for Hockey India. It was also believed that the country had better chances of qualifying for the Olympics via the Hockey Series.
The international hockey federation (FIH) has welcomed the move and said that the move has been supported by other participating countries.
“India’s men team will join the FIH Pro League from 2020 on, as was unanimously supported by the other participating National Associations,” the FIH said in a statement after its Executive Board meeting.
The move certainly will bring back Indian team into the top-fold, out of the self-imposed hibernation and will up their game with regular match-ups against top-ranked teams.
In the inaugural Pro-League which began in January, nine teams are facing off in a round-robin format with home and away matches till June. The top four teams will qualify for the FIH’s Olympic Qualification events.
“It is great that India will join the FIH Pro League already next year. There is such a passion for hockey in the country that it will add a lot to our newest competition,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil said.
FIH’s Executive Board came out with few more surprises with the schedules for the 2020 and 2021 IH Pro League being tweaked and clubbed. It revealed that, though the League competition will be held within the first six months of every year but all the matches will remain home games. The away games will be there too but will now be divided into two consecutive seasons. This implies in 2020, the Indian team will host Team Australia twice within a couple of days, and in 2021, the Australian team will host Team India twice within a couple of days.
This will certainly reduce the logistics cost, the travel and probably saves athletes from exhaustion.
“This scheme reduces by half the travel of the teams compared to the current format, therefore decreasing costs for teams, benefitting athletes’ welfare and reducing the impact on the environment,” the FIH said.
Every sport needs India, in terms of reach, popularity But there seems to be more than what meets the eye. Keeping India out of a sport such as hockey does not augur well for its economics. With the amount of money India generates, the buzz it creates with over 130 crore population and the eye balls it generates is something which is unmatchable. and money, India is the center for all. Cricket is one case that validates the claim, where it is amongstthe “Big 3”.
When the inaugural season gets completed, it will be interesting to see: TV Viewing numbers, numbers at stadiums, percentage of total occupancy, number of new commercial contracts achieved as well as income and total participation cost per country.
India is not playing in the FIH Pro League this year, and is banking on the Hockey Series Finals, which is only the first step to gain the qualification, for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Bhubaneswar is hosting one of the three Hockey Series Finals in June. If India manages to finish amongst the top 2 in the Hockey Series Finals, they will have a shot at the Olympic Qualifier tournament, which will probably be held in November 2019.
India missed a golden chance to qualify for the Olympics after they failed to bring home the Asian Games Gold medal, by the virtue of which they would have gained direct qualification to Olympics, being Continental Champions.
Image Courtsey: Twitter/TheHockeyIndia
About the Author
Suposh Sharma, keenly follows Hockey, Athletics, and other Olympic sports. He also has a penchant for writing humour and is an avid traveller