In a first, a state government will sponsor a national team. Odisha government announced a five-year deal with Hockey India on Thursday to replace Sahara as the sponsors of all national teams — junior and senior, men and women, in a deal estimated to be approximately Rs 150 crore.
Odisha, who are also the hosts of this year’s men’s World Cup, came on board after Hockey India terminated their deal with Sahara that was extended till 2021 in January 2017. Although no official reason was given for two parties ending the deal prematurely, a Hockey India official said it was a ‘mutual decision’ owing to the crisis that has engulfed the company. Sahara were associated with Indian national teams since 1995 and although their contract amount for the 2017-2021 period was not made public, it is believed they paid close to Rs 40 crore for the five-year cycle from 2012 to 2017.
Hockey India’s deal with Odisha government comes in one of the busiest years for the Indian hockey teams.
The men and women’s team will take part in April’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in August and while the women’s World Cup is scheduled to be held in London in July, the year ends with the men’s World Cup, which will be played in Bhubaneswar.
The state is regarded as the cradle of hockey and has produced greats like Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey and Lazarus Barla in the past. The current Indian teams also has the likes of Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey in the men’s team while Namita Toppo is a key player in the women’s team.
This isn’t the first time Odisha has associated itself with hockey. The state government also owns the Kalinga Lancers franchise in the Hockey India League. Bhubaneswar has hosted international tournaments like the 2014 Champions Trophy and last year’s Hockey World League Final. Odisha is also the host and proud title sponsor of the FIH men’s Hockey World Cup to be held later this year.
International Hockey Federation president Narinder Batra said the deal could spur more states to adopt different sports. “It is very important for states to be involved in sports. Odisha have adopted hockey, athletics and a few other sports. It sets a good benchmark for the rest,” Batra said. Batra also informed that the opening ceremony of the World Cup will be held a day before the start of the event. The World Cup will be held from November 28 to December 16 this year.