FIH not to look into complaints of poor umpiring

Amid complaints of poor umpiring at the Hockey World Cup 2018, International Hockey Federation CEO Thierry Weil has said there would be no review of the decision-making process.

International Hockey Federation Thierry Weil addresses the media along with FIH president Narinder Batra at the sidelines of the Hockey World Cup 2018 on Saturday.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

On Saturday, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) was in a combative mood. The world body appeared clueless about its plans for the sport, but was combative when questioned about certain decisions and observations made by teams and experts on the sidelines of the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

The most contentious issue has been the umpiring, with India coach Harendra Singh saying his team was robbed of a “fighting chance” in the quarterfinals against Netherlands. He even listed out instances of poor umpiring. But FIH CEO Thierry Weil said there would be no review of the decision-making process.

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If anything, he issued a veiled threat of action against Harendra. “I think the beauty of sport is, you have a winner and a loser. The day you win, you are happy. The day you lose, you are sad. Even the Argentina team cried on the bench. When you lose, what do you have to do? You have to look forward to play better and win next time.

"To blame umpires is not the hockey style. I would just recommend (that) and definitely say umpires have a tough job... It (questioning umpires) is not acceptable. We will not review anything, what we will review is complaints made against the umpires. That is not acceptable,” Weil declared.

It was perhaps just a coincidence that Harendra, accompanied by analytical coach Chris Ciriello, was having a meeting with the Umpires’ Manager at the exact same time to explain his angst and seek answers.

Accompanied by FIH president Narinder Batra, Weil even praised the umpires for ‘volunteering’ to officiate in the World Cup. “They go through the full process to qualify, they are trained, have our rankings and evaluated on the basis of their performance. But they are not 100% paid, they are not doing umpiring through the year. We don't have the resources,” he said.

India coach Harendra Singh said his side was robbed of a “fighting chance” in the quarterfinals against Netherlands.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Interestingly, even the likes of Ric Charlesworth and Jagbir Singh have questioned the umpiring standards and decisions here.

Batra, who as Hockey India president had often been at the forefront of taking up cudgels with the international body to protect Indian interest, was on board with the FIH this time around. “I have my strong views about this kind of behavour. A sport has to be played in the right spirit. I am here till the 17th but (when) I go back to Delhi, I will give my view on this. You are being unfair to people on the ground, sometimes umpires themselves ask for referrals. Other games have also adopted (video referral). They are doing a thankless job. Be graceful whether you win or lose. Finding a fault is very easy. You should rather appreciate and respect,” he said.

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But when asked for clarifications on certain grandiose decisions the FIH announced, they were clueless, including not just the venue but even the dates for the next edition of the World Cup. “We have launched the invitation of bids for the 2022 World Cup. We have set two windows in July 2022 and Jan 2023 and the bidding process will finish in February,” Weil offered.

- Junior World Cup to become biennial affair -

The Junior World Cup would now be a biennial affair but the last one was held in 2016. Even granting that the decision was taken in the FIH Executive Board here on Friday, both Batra and Weil could not say when the next edition would be held. “For the JWC, we will start bids for potential candidates. I think it is in 2021, but please let us confirm that you before putting out a wrong message,” Weil said.

Among other decisions was a reworking of the world ranking system and having a new four-year international calendar, including all FIH events. “We will have to be disciplined and not move dates around. In some parts of the world, we have a good club structure. For those guys to plan, it is important,” Weil said, indicating that the European nations, critical of the scheduling and the Hockey India League for affecting their own club structure, have finally had their way.

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There has also been criticism of the long tournament duration here and while Weil insisted the length would be reduced hereafter he had no details. “I cannot tell you now how will it exactly work. Potentially more games in one day,” he said.

He added that he would look into getting historical statistics streamlined in his maiden interaction after the FIH Congress last month and reiterated himself, giving no details. “We are working on it (but) had a Congress and WC to plan. In 2019 we will definitely start feeding in. When there was a move in 2000 from one office to another, a lot of documentation was not kept. We are on the way to get all this information, step by step,” he shrugged.