Uncertain times for Hockey India League?

Unhappy franchises and financial concerns may lead to a premature end to the Hockey India League (HIL) after just five seasons.

Kalinga Lancers won the Hockey India League this year.   -  PTI


Unhappy franchises and financial concerns may lead to a premature end to the Hockey India League (HIL) after just five seasons.

Unconfirmed reports claimed on Monday that Hockey India had advised the International Hockey Federation (FIH) that there would be no HIL in 2018. But while there has been neither confirmation nor rejection of the same from either organisation, franchise sources said trouble had been brewing for a while even though they were all shocked with the news.

“No comments. Arrangements for 2018 are not yet finalised. We will let know on further progress in the matter,” was all HI CEO Elena Norman had to say. FIH president Narinder Batra rejected the news outright. But others were more open. “There have been issues. Jaypee has been reluctant to continue with Punjab team because of financial problems. Delhi has been unhappy too. In fact, Delhi has been given two weeks to clarify their position vis-à-vis continuing in the HIL. So everything is not hunky-dory,” a senior team management member with one of the franchises admitted.

In fact, with a stake in two teams – Lucknow and Ranchi – Sahara too has reportedly been under pressure. Multiple sources confirmed, however, that the biggest issue was with Delhi, owned by the Wave Group, and its continuation was dicey. “With Punjab, the chances are more for the team being bought over by someone else. And Sahara hasn’t ever let down a sport. It’s Delhi that is an issue,” another team representative said. Ironically, the HIL had been looking forward to spreading to a seven team event from 2018 with the addition of Bengaluru as a franchise.

There have been other issues with HI too. Payment to players for the 2017 edition across several franchises has been delayed and still pending even though there have been no official complaints. The annual Hockey India awards have been postponed twice. A routine workshop for franchise representatives was not held last month as scheduled. Now, less than a year since Batra quit to take charge of the international body, trouble seems only to be increasing for HI with this latest issue.

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