Close on the heels of Mumbai Magicians’ pull out from the Hockey India League (HIL), the champions of the inaugural edition, Ranchi Rhinos, too have decided to shut shop. It is learnt that some differences had cropped up between Hockey India and the owners of the franchise, Patel-Uniexcel Group, which resulted in them parting ways.
Ranchi are the second team to withdraw from the tournament in a span of one month after owners Dabur Group decided to do the same due to financial reasons. It is learnt that the Ranchi team management communicated their decision to Hockey India earlier this week. Hockey India in turn informed the players on Thursday.
The 24 players on Ranchi’s roster will now feature in the players’ auction along with their Mumbai counterparts. “There were some serious differences between the Ranchi owners and Hockey India over a few issues. And in everyone’s best interest it was decided that they part ways,” a Hockey India official said, without elaborating further.
It is learnt that Hockey India has identified a new owner for the Mumbai franchise and Pune remains the front-runner to bag a franchise as well.
However, after the withdrawal of Magicians and Rhinos, the third edition of the HIL that begins in January will not feature eight teams, as assured by Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra.
“The league will have six teams, like the last season. Mumbai will have a new owner and Pune is likely to replace Ranchi. There were plans of expansion but it seems unlikely now,” the official added.
In its short two-year span, Ranchi Rhinos had formed considerable fan-following and had brought the region, which has been the hotbed for Indian hockey, into the limelight.
Their home matches were played in front of packed stands, which was a rare scenario in the second season. The team comprised of some of the top players from the world, including Germany’s Moritz Fuerste, England’s Ashley Jackson, apart from young Indian players like Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh.
Fuerste, it is learnt, is consulting his lawyers to chalk out the road ahead. He took to Twitter to express his disappointment. “No more ranchi rhinos!!! From this very moment on the ranchi rhinos are history. All players are released from there contracts. Really sad about the rhinos decision…. Looks like we all have to hope for a new team now,” he tweeted.