FIH CEO: 'Doors open for India to join Pro League anytime'

India, earlier this year, withdrew from the ambitious Hockey Pro League (HPL) starting 2019 citing lack of clarity and an apparent bias towards European sides.

International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Jason McCraken, and FIH president Narinder Batra, threw open the doors of the league for India to join the league.   -  PTI

It came as a surprise when India earlier this year withdrew from the ambitious Hockey Pro League (HPL) starting 2019 citing lack of clarity and an apparent bias towards European sides. The decision brought along concerns about revenue generation and popularity of the new tournament given India's strength in both departments.

On Saturday, International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Jason McCraken, accompanied by FIH president Narinder Batra, threw open the doors of the league for India despite the nine-team line-up in both men and women being completed way back in July by including Spain and Belgium as respective replacements.

“The FIH would be delighted to have India as part of the Pro League. The doors are open now but there are some challenges. There will be 144 games all over the world and we have to adjust the schedule. There is a process and not only India, other countries like Canada or Korea, can join the Pro League,” McCracken declared.

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“I think in the future when the time is right, I'm sure India will be joining us because hockey is strong when India is there. We are always talking to Hockey India. We see good crowds here but when we see India playing we see a packed stadium and that’s what we want see all over the world,” he added, making the reasons for the open invite clear.

In case that does happen, it would be interesting to see how the entire tournament pans out. An increase in the number of teams would mean a longer season to what is already likely to be a six-month affair. Excluding a team would be unfair to the ones already committed to the HPL. But McCracken did not divulge any details about the process.

Instead, he outlined the calendar for 2018, explained the new Hockey Series Open that would replace the current Hockey World League from next year and declared hockey to be safe with regards to its existence at the Olympics.

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“What we are witnessing is that the trend of old days where one or two teams dominate are gone. Hockey is in a great shape. Next year we have the Indoor World Cup, we have two World Cups, two Champions Trophies and the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. In 2019, we see another transition, with the beginning of the Hockey Pro League and the replacement for this event which is the Hockey Series Open (starting 2018) and the Hockey Series Finals in 2019,” he said. The teams for both would be separate.

Explaining the Hockey Series, McCracken added, “The HWL as a four-level tournament will be replaced by a two-level event. The HSO open to all nations in the world, from which winners will go through to three HSFs to be played in 2019. The top-two teams from each of them advance to the Qualifying event for the Olympics,” he explained.

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