Elena Norman: Indian hockey's mover and shaker

In an interaction with Sportstar, the Hockey India CEO explains her role and how sports administration has improved from a decade ago.

Hockey India CEO Elena Norman admitted it was easier for her to act tough as a non-native to get work done.

Hockey India CEO Elena Norman admitted it was easier for her to act tough as a non-native to get work done.   -  Special Arrangement

For someone considered all-powerful in Indian hockey, Elena Norman is content being a ‘project manager’ and a co-ordinator for the federation.

The Hockey India CEO, in an interaction with Sportstar on Tuesday, admitted it was easier for her to act tough as a non-native to get work done but wished away any suggestions that she was the main decision-maker for the sport in the country.

“I am more than happy being behind the scenes and co-ordinating work from all around to make sure things function smoothly. I am lucky to have a great team to work with, people who have been together for almost five-six years, but I am more of a manager than anything else. It is a lot more than people realise and I have neither the inclination nor time to get into stuff that is being handled perfectly fine by the experts,” she said.

Often seen as the de-facto boss of HI, the Australian was quick to admit that sports administration, both in HI and in general, had improved vastly from when she first got involved almost 10 years ago. “I was working with a company that was handling the 2010 World Cup and over time, I ended up being its event director. It was a crazy time! Since then, things have changed a lot, and for the better,” she said.

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Given that Australia is considered the Holy Grail for sports and the often-derided bureaucracy in India, it was a surprise when Elena declared that it was actually easier to work here. “I would think it is as good or bad as anywhere else. To be honest, I believe it is actually easier to get work done here, even if the exact on-paper procedures are not always followed. I don’t think I would be able to work anywhere else. Having experienced the way things work in places like Australia or Switzerland, let me assure you it is a lot more frustrating there,” Elena said.

She was also proud of the fact that Hockey India was one of the few federations that has had little trouble with the Sports Ministry or SAI over years. “The kind of discussions we are having now is refreshing. There is a lot of emphasis on transparency and streamlining of process including getting ACTCs online, managing clearances etc.

“We have already done ours in May. We constantly upload our camp and tour details on the NADA database as part of the whereabouts clause. Till June, the rules required both team and individual whereabouts of two players each from men and women (in the RTP) but now the FIH has conveyed that only team details are needed. We write to NADA before every camp and competition.

“In fact, there is a certificate that FIH provides to players for attending presentations on anti-doping, valid for two years. These are done routinely and every player needs to have a valid certificate to be eligible for an FIH tournament! We are one of the strictest federations when it comes to anti-doping,” she said with pride.

Asked if there was one thing she wished to change, Elena was thoughtful. “Six months ago, I would have said maybe a little more work on development of coaches and knowledge. But we are doing it now but yes, we could have started much earlier,” she signed off.