When Narinder Batra became the first Indian to head the international federation of an Olympic sport in 2016, it was a cakewalk. On Saturday, he retained the presidency of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) by the closest of margins and insisted he would work on improving his interactions with the rest of the national bodies.
Batra defeated Belgium’s Marc Coudron 63-61 — 124 votes were polled in total — during the 47th FIH Congress — held virtually due to COVID — to be re-elected till 2024. It had been 68 out of 114 members last time.
“Perhaps I was unable to communicate my point of view properly. Almost 49 per cent of the members wanted a change and now it is my duty to understand where I could not live up to their expectations, pay more attention and interact to ensure implementation of the listed priorities with everyone on board,” he admitted in an interaction soon after.
“My priority is to grow the sport globally and to do that we need to in order to constantly evolve with new formats and events. We need to enhance our financial stability. A well-developed revenue model is the key to achieve sustainable financial growth,” he added.
Asked about the resumption of India-Pakistan hockey ties, Batra reiterated it would be a bilateral decision. “It is up to Hockey India and PHF and there are some political decisions as well. As FIH, we would love to see them play, which they do now in multinational events like World Cup, but it is not in our domain,” he said.
For a large part, however, it was FIH CEO Thierry Weil who fielded questions on the sustainability of the sport and competitions in the coming cycle. “Many have asked about the viability of the Pro League but it will go on, it is the best promotion of hockey with the best players. Also, we will have the Nations Cup from 2022 as the perfect accompaniment to Pro League, making it an open tournament with promotion and relegation,” Weil insisted.
Hoping that the remaining events through 2021 would be held as scheduled, Weil nonetheless admitted he would personally support any move to relax age limits in case the Junior World Cup (scheduled in India in December) is postponed although a decision could only be taken by the EB.
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