FIH: ‘We need solution for Pakistan matches’

“We have to look at the bigger picture for teams who don't want to travel to Pakistan. There could be neutral venues or some other country as host for Pakistan,” feels FIH CEO Jason McCracken.

Jason McCraken, CEO of The International Hockey Federation.   -  Ali Bharmal/Getty Images for FIH

Jason McCracken took charge as the CEO of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) at the same time as Narinder Batra became its president and the New Zealander, who has been an elite umpire, technical official and an administrator for more than 20 years, believed world hockey is in a good place right now.

One of the ideas close to his heart is the new Home-and-Away league that is expected to kick off next year. The new league would have seven-nine teams playing each other at, as the name suggests, each other's home over a period of four months. McCracken insisted the new competition has been conceptualised to “clean the slate” and do away with confusion around too many top-tier tournaments.

“We had the Champions Trophy, Champions Challenge, the Hockey World League, World Cup, the Olympics -- basically so many different events and it was very confusing for the public. We are now left with two products, the Olympics and the World Cup, a major event every two years. Now we are going to put this new programme. In effect, you get three major events running every year over a two-three month period,” he said in an interaction here.

The new league would also signal the end of the Champions Trophy and the Hockey World League that began only in 2012. All of it, however, would not affect the importance of the Hockey India League (HIL) in the annual calendar, he was quick to add, while agreeing that the schedule might have to be tweaked a bit.

“We are in discussions with Hockey India and there is some talk of moving it to the end of the calendar year. We haven't yet talked to the Europeans because their competitions are also at that time. Having said that, the HIL has been a great event and attracts the best from all over the world and will continue to have the FIH backing with a clear window in the calendar,” McCracken said. Given that the HIL would expand to seven teams from 2018 and is eventually looking to be an eight-team event, it would be quite a logistical challenge for both HI and the FIH.

Asked about Pakistan being one of the shortlisted countries for the men's competition in the new league – 18 have been selected so far – McCracken admitted “creative solutions” may have to be worked out. “We have to look at the bigger picture for teams who don't want to travel to Pakistan. There could be neutral venues or some other country as host for Pakistan. Cricket has successfully managed to do that. We want to have an open mind. As an ex-international umpire I have umpired India-Pakistan games and it's one of the best things, we do not want to miss out on that,” he said.