In a sudden jolt to Indian hockey, chief coach Terry Walsh on Tuesday resigned from his post because of a “pay dispute” with the Sports Authority of India, barely three weeks after guiding the team to a historic gold medal in the Asian Games in Incheon.
The 60-year-old Australian, himself a noted Olympian, submitted his resignation in dramatic fashion, saying that he was finding it difficult to adjust to the decision making style of the sporting bureaucracy in the country. His contract was to run till the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Soon after his resignation, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that he was looking for a resolution of the issue and has sought a report from SAI within the next 24 hours.
On a day of high drama, Walsh’s resignation created a flutter in the hockey fraternity and triggered off a blame game between Hockey India and SAI.
While HI maintained that the pay dispute and suffocating bureaucracy had prompted Walsh to quit, SAI rubbished that claim, saying that the Australian had never complained of any financial issues.
“I hereby tender my resignation as the Chief Coach, Indian Men’s Hockey Team, effective as per the details of my contract or as agreed to by all concerned parties,” Walsh said in a letter sent to Thomson on October 19. The letter was released to the media on Tuesday.
“I am finding considerable difficulty adjusting to the decision making style of the sporting bureaucracy in India which I believe, in the long term, is not in the best interests of Indian Hockey or it’s players,” said Walsh under whom India also won a silver in Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“In addition to my difficulties with not being able to professionally operate within these bureaucratic confines, I am not willing to continue with the constant time away from my family in Australia. My current commitment places too much stress on my personal life,” he added.
Walsh was, however, ready to reconsider his decision if he was given a new contract on his terms and conditions.
It is learnt that Walsh and some other support staff were having some issues with the government over TDS (Tax Deduction at Source) in their salaries.
Surprised at Walsh’s sudden resignation, Sonowal sought a report on the issue from SAI and his own secretary within 24 hours.
“It’s a serious issue. After learning about the development, I have passed on the instructions to SAI Director General and Secretary Sports to explain the cause of the resignation within 24 hours,” Sonowal said.
Asked if he was aware that Walsh had reportedly some tax issues with SAI, Sonowal replied in a negative.
“It was not in my knowledge. Let them submit a report only then we will see what can be done,” Sonowal said.
SAI DG Jiji Thomson said he was surprised at Walsh’s decision as the Australian had not made any complaints earlier.
“We are in receipt of the resignation letter dated 19th October, 2014, from Terry Walsh as Chief Coach of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team. We are extremely surprised and disappointed with the sudden resignation of Terry Walsh, one of the finest coaches in world Hockey,” Thomson said in a release.
“We are extremely satisfied with his performance and it was because of his outstanding professional credentials that he was selected as Chief Coach. He was appointed on 21.10.2013. Ever since then he has not even made any complaint about anything concerning Indian hockey. If Walsh has had any complaint about the functioning of SAI, he would very well came and discussed it with us,” Thomson said.
He said Walsh visited SAI office on Tuesday and met the officials.
“Today, he made a visit to our office and had met Sudhir Setia, Executive Director (TEAMS) wherein he expressed his anguish regarding working in a suffocating atmosphere in the Federation. We are totally unaware of what happened in Hockey India,” he added.
Thomson also denied that there were any issues over TDS and said the problem was created by HI president Narinder Batra. He dismissed the issue as “canards” on the part of Batra.
The SAI DG said “sporting bureaucracy” mentioned by Walsh could also be Hockey India.
“Walsh does not work under us, we only pay him USD 16,000 per month for his job and we have very little dealings with him on day-to-day basis. So, the sporting bureaucracy could be HI also,” he said.
Hockey India president Narinder Batra said such a “disaster” was waiting to happen for some time.
“I could see this coming quite sometime. There has been issues, there has been frustrations among the foreign staff. There is too much of interference, too much of delay from the government side which has been bothering them. We tried to get things sorted out,” Batra said.
“There is too much of bureaucracy, too much of paperwork.”
In an e-mail circulated to the media, Batra said that Walsh had issues with the SAI over his contract.
“Besides other issues he (Walsh) has issues with his contract with SAI, which now after his resignation expires on 19.11.2014,” Batra said.
“We suggest if SAI can have a re-look at his contract before 19.11.2014 so that he may continue till Olympic 2016. We suggest for a meeting between SAI and Walsh,” he said.