After two successful seasons, the Hockey India League (HIL) has suffered its first major setback after the Dabur Group-owned Mumbai Magicians pulled out of the third edition of the multi-city tournament.
The 24 players on Mumbai’s roster were informed about Dabur’s decision by Hockey India CEO Elena Norman via an email dated August 10. The reason for their premature withdrawal is unclear, but poor returns on their two-year investment is believed to be the prime cause. Each franchise had signed up for a three-year term with Hockey India, which ended at the conclusion of 2015 season.
The next HIL season, however, will consist of at least seven teams — one more than the previous edition —with two more new franchisees to be finalised soon. A decision is expected to be taken during Hockey India’s executive committee meeting on September 6.
The Mumbai players will in turn feature in the mini-auction that is scheduled to take place later this year. India discard Sarvanjit Singh said he has put his name in the auction pool and hoped to be picked by one of the teams. “We were informed about the decision last month. It is disappointing because Mumbai has been discontinued but as a player, my target is to find a new team to play for. Hopefully, I will be picked in the upcoming auctions,” Sarvanjit said.
While Pune is almost certain to be one of the new venues for the next edition, Hockey India is also looking for a new owner for the Mumbai franchise, it is learnt.
Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra insisted that the next edition will feature eight teams. “The talks of Mumbai franchise pulling out are rumours. We will have eight teams in the next HIL and a final decision on the issue will be taken in our next meeting,” Batra said.
Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai and Hyderabad are the other short-listed cities as base for the new teams.
Mumbai finished fifth in both seasons, failing to gel as a team despite boasting of quite a few established names, including India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and Australian Glen Turner. Legendary Australian coach Ric Charlesworth was the team’s coach in the first season and he was replaced by India coach MK Kaushik this year.
In a communication sent to the players last month, Hockey India expressed disappointment but ‘respected the decision of the franchise owners in terminating their agreement. “We wish to inform you that we have received communication yesterday from the Mumbai Franchise of the Hero Hockey India League, Dabur Mumbai Magicians, that that (sic) will not be continuing as a franchise with the Hockey India League with immediate effect,” Norman wrote.
The email further read: “We are disappointed that the DDM franchise (sic) will not be featuring in future editions of the Hockey India League…As a player with the DMM squad, you were on contract for the 2014 season and as you are available, we would like to invite you to participate in the mini auction/closed bid for the 2015 season of the Hero Hockey India League…”
Mumbai Magicians COO Satya Tadimeti said he would make a comment ‘next week’ while the team’s owner Amit Burman did not offer his views.
Hockey being killed: Batra writes to PM
Accusing the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India of ‘systemically killing the sport in the country,’ Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra sought intervention from prime minister Narendra Modi.
Batra shot off letters to Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley and BJP president Amit Shah seeking a meeting with them to ‘explain the problems faced by them’. “On behalf of Hockey India, I am requesting for an appointment to meet your goodself and brief you about the harassment we in hockey are facing from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India,” Batra wrote. “As effort is being made by secretary sports Ajit Sharan and DG Sports Authority of India Jiji Thomson to systemically finish off hockey in this country.”
Batra has been on a warpath with the ministry and SAI after they refused to grant additional funds to the team and did not allow junior team camps. The war of words escalated after none of the hockey players were selected for the national sports awards.
Batra added in his letter that they have made numerous efforts to meet sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the last 45 days, but to no avail. “I have made efforts to contact the Hon’ble Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Hon’ble Mr Sarbananda Sonowal 9 times and made 14 requests in last 45 days, besides this 44 mails have been sent to raise our concerns,” Batra wrote. “My purpose to coming to meet you is to seek your protection, support and blessing for our national game, hockey, which is now being systemically killed since last three months by the preset set up of officer’s for reasons best known to them.” —ENS