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AHF CEO:Marketing skills of Batra will benefit FIH (11/10/2016)
--K. Arumugam
AHF CEO: Marketing skills of Batra will benefit FIH

It was a pleasant surprise in Kuantan where recently fourth Asian Champions Trophy was conducted by the Asian Hockey Federation. Ever-increasing crowd on the stands, most matches among the top contenders going down to the wires, with a PR Agency to promote it in media, perfect TV timings for the host and the concerned world, there appeared a feeling that after a long long time the AHF, which was far so long known for its conservatism than pragmatism, has started picking up professionalism. At last. One personality, who is responsible for the turn around, is none other than Tayyab Ikram, the first Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Hockey Federation. He spoke to on wide ranging topics, especially the impending FIH election. undefined

As a CEO of Asian hockey, what are your priorities?
First of all I aim to bring professional approach in AHF and in the hockey family here in the continent. Efforts will be made to make events, fan focussed, and provide visibility for players, improve their calibre, and improve their performance on bigger stages. My priority is also marketing, event making. I feel after watching this edition of our Champions Trophy, we have made a huge step indirect direction.

It seems competition wise Asia lacks the rest of world, and also not many countries play at required quality level?
I think there is vast improvement in Asia from this perspective. More countries take part in Tier-2 events. If my memory is correct, 27,28 countries participate. Yes, compared to global competitive leavel, we are still on way. We lost our track on the way. We are taking firms steps to bridge the gap in quality and bring more events. Now after Rio there was a vacant window with the FIH, we we stepped in with this Asian Champions Trophy.

How much significant is it getting FIH Ranking points for the Asian Champions Trophy in the AHF scheme of things?
Every event should be meaningful. If the event is meaningful then they can achieve funding. Getting FIH ranking in this tournament may turn out to be selling point for the nations concerned. It’s now mandatory for Asian teams to play in the Asian Champions Trophy if they want to qualify for the World Cup. So, this event automatically turns out to be a selling point for our stakeholders. They can grab some good funding for the preparation for this tournament. undefined

Why can’t Asia have a league of its own like European Hockey League or say like Hockey India League?
Hockey India is our league. Its not something hockey India is doing something fantastic, its not ours. HIL is our (AHF) league. Further, I don’t think many windows left now for any League. In future, we may enter into partnership deals like thing with Hockey India. As of now Hockey India League is nothing but Asian Hockey League. This is our understanding and working relations we maintain between our members.

But there is less number of Asians in the HIL compared to Europeans or Oceania
HIL is now trying to get more access. My experience is that Hockey India never stopped any Asian players. There exists some critical situation in some countries, that is a different thing. What we need to understand is accessibility and availability of players, these factors play a big role insofar as players getting into the HIL bandwagon is concerned. I am positive, and you can see some changes in the future. We found Hockey India very positive.

What is the prospects of AHF’s candidature in the FIH President election?
We have three serious candidates for the president post of the FIH. Each have their own profiles and feats. We are much concerned about Dr. Batra’s candidature. His candidature has lot of values keeping in view what he has achieved in India, and for the Indian hockey. Its not that just top national teams’ performance but the structure he has put in for Indian hockey as a whole that warrants our attention and appreciation. He has lot to offer. He can bring all those experience now. The FIH can benefit from his marketing and commercial expertise. This is one area the world hockey at large can benefit from Hockey India. undefined

Can he win the election?
We are united. We put our best foot forward. But when comes to this kind of campaign some may go this way and some others in a different way. By and large we Asians are united our candidate is successful in Dubai. However, if you will ask whether he will get 31 out of 31 votes, I cannot say. But Dr Batra has a big AHF umbrella to stake his claim in the FIH.

Is the India-Pakistan hockey stand off hamper Asian hockey progress?
We don’t have any control on political developments. But we are sportsmen. Sports and competitions are wonderful opportunities. Sports can unite. I see a hope. I see a hope now. I am never disappointed.

You started as an FIH event organizers in 2002 with the Macau Champions Trophy. How do you trace your personal journey?
I am very happy today if I look back from where it all started. AHF is getting noticed now, especially with the FIH. All these achievements are important. My duty is to explore the Asian hockey potential. Am on the way, but I concede it’s a long way.

Even leading countries were not in the Dhaka U-18 Asia Cup?
Different reasons for that. Conditions varying in each country like budget, security issues, Bangladesh in future will be a strong stake holder to AHF events. Within short period of time, they have done an excellent job. We can always improve on participation count. We should not forget these are newly introduced tournaments. This tournament did not have a pathway, no one is going to qualify for the Youth Olympics, I feel top tier teams should participate, and we are aware of the things and are taking it up.

Many Asian hockey countries face financial hardships. Is there any way AHF can fund them or help them out?
Hockey is a self funded sports. Yes in football and some other sports some synergy has developed. We should not forget the fact that high performance structure of one country is becoming expensive and expensive. Any country losing out on financial structure cannot be expected to maintain their elite status. Helping them will be our long shot. undefined

What are your future areas of focus from Asian standpoint.
There are three different areas which we need to focus, work. Top most is better and better visibility for our sport to top tier nations. The example is right out here, the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan. We got the TV Coverage, and introduced Semifinals. Millions of people watch today’s semifinal when Malaysia takes on Pakistan. Otherwise they had already played out a match in the tournament opener. Today’s eyeballs are much more than the first day. We need to take such bold steps. The second thing is commercial and marketing side of. Whether we can generate enough revenue and assist our second tier-nations and bridge the gap in performance. We can have more competitive nations in the AHF events. Provide accessibility to our third tier nations. I respect their efforts despite having very poor conditions. We will improve our digital presence in a big way. New website will be online after the women’s Champions Trophy.

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