Concerned over India’s ability to host the World Cup: International Hockey Federation

Claiming that they feel ‘ignored’ and ‘not listened to’, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) expressed concerns over Hockey India’s ‘ability’ to host the World Cup in January next year, after the court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) failed to respond to multiple letters they sent in the last few weeks.

Due to no response from the CoA, the FIH and the Asian Hockey Federation are planning to dispatch a delegation, which will include the interim FIH president Seif Ahmed of Egypt, to India next month to hold talks with the government as well as the CoA. The world body’s chief executive Thierry Weil said if they do not get satisfactory response during the meeting, they will be forced to look at alternate options for hosting the World Cup.

“The meeting in India, which we hope to have next month, will be crucial, Weil said. “If, in that meeting, we do not get what we expect in terms of timelines for drafting constitution and conducting elections, then we will need seriously look at other options.”

The World Cup, FIH’s flagship event, is scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29, 2023.

On Wednesday, Weil shot off a letter to the three members of the CoA – former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, retired Supreme Court judge Anil Dave and former India international Zafar Iqbal – saying that any further delay in drafting Hockey India’s constitution and conducting elections would only add to their concerns regarding the World Cup.

Weil wrote: “In all honesty, the fact that you have not reacted at all to our letter from last week is giving us concerns as to Hockey India’s ability to host the upcoming FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup, which is of paramount importance for us. To that extent, should Hockey India Constitution-drafting and elections be delayed any further, this will seriously increase our concerns.”

The Delhi High Court placed Hockey India under a CoA for violation of the Sports Code in May. The court was hearing a petition filed by former India captain Aslam Sher Khan, who challenged the appointment of former FIH and Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra as Hockey India’s ‘life president’. The court struck down the position, which led to Batra resigning as the head of both sporting bodies.

Weil said the FIH has a binding legal agreement with Hockey India, which makes them liable for the delivery of the tournament. “So we cannot progress unless we have an elected Hockey India board. For liability reasons, we need an elected, functioning board,” Weil said. “We have permanant daily contact with Hockey India on working level regarding Pro League matches, and preparation for the World Cup. But from the CoA, we have not heard back even once and this is the third communication we sent to them. We feel ignored and not listened to.”

The world body said they’re willing to ‘provide any assistance required to amend the Constitution in line with the rules laid-down by the Government of India’. However, it added that the elections must be held ‘expeditiously’.

“We would like to reiterate that elections should take place expeditiously to allow the newly (sic) Executive Board of Hockey India to have adequate time to properly organise the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup, which is scheduled from 13th to 29th January 2023 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela,” Weil wrote in the letter.

Hockey isn’t the only sport that has been put under pressure by its world body because of the appointment of the CoA and the drafting of the constitution. The All India Football Federation, too, is facing a FIFA ban after the Supreme Court appointed a CoA to draft its constitution and run the day-to-day affairs. Quraishi and Dave are a part of the AIFF CoA as well.

Weil said the FIH is hoping that the scenario to move the World Cup outside India won’t arise, but warned they won’t hesitate if it comes to that. “We strongly want to have this World Cup in India,” he said. “But this can’t be at any price or any condition.”

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