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Those Who Killed Hockey (3/23/2003)
--K.. Arumugam
New Delhi: 23rd March, 2003:

It’s the likes of Phil Appleyards who killed hockey in India.

Extract: The Sahara Group that announced a reward of USD five million to Indian cricket team and the business magnet who carry India’s top film stars and celeberaties to World Cup cricket in his own flight came to hockey first before kicked away by the dual evil of archaic FIH’s approach and inept Indian administrators.

Details: Cricket proved in India how sports can be a national passion. Never before has any sports event captured people’s fancy and imagination to such a frenzy level as did the recent ICC World Cup cricket. So much so even politicians and cine stars of all hue are talking about it, taking it seriously. They all go in troves to South Africa to boost the morale of the Indian team.

Many sports lovers in India including a section in the specialists cricket writers, feel the hype cricket created will doom other sports. One might agree to their view or not, its immaterial. The point is that hockey has to take a cue from cricket and its administrators how to improve its lot rather than rue about cricket’s gigantic popularity.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India was in debt when India last won the World Cup in 1983, to the tune of Rs.60 lacs. 20 years later, the BCCI is not only the richest cricket boards in the world, its chief Jagmohan Dalmiya has become International Cricket Council’s chairman too. To cut long matters short, it’s suffice to say he is hailed as the top ten sports administrators of the world by the leading magazines such as Forbes.

If the likes of Jagmohan Dalmiya are the shining examples of sports administration, hockey admininos both national and international level stand out starkly on the obverse side of the spectrum.

Everyone in India knows Sahara is the official sponsor of the Indian cricket team, pumping in millions of rupees. The blue chip company also announced winners price of Rs.23 crores (Approx. USD 5 million). Not many perhaps does know that Sahara’s chairman Subrato Roy is an ardent hockey lover. When his company decided to enter sports sponsorship, it first came to hockey. It was in early 1995. They sponsored the eighth Indira Gandhi International Gold Cup hockey that year. Besides India, England, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea and Poland were in the fray.

Not just sponsorship was it. It was all time big, a grand affair. They ran an ad campaign to popularize the event. Leading cinema stars Shah Ruk Khan, Amir Khan, Chuhi Chawla and others were roped in, and the 15 to 30 second commercials featuring them were hits during the live telecast of the tournament. `Love India, Love Hockey’ was another of their campaigns. Stickers and posters carrying this message was all over Delhi. Very big posters, hoardings filled the important landmarks.

And, significantly, Sahara purchased five Maruti Esteeem Air-conditioned luxury cars and displayed it on the verdure of the National Stadium. The cars were to be presented to each Player of the Final, Player of the Tournament, best goal-keeper, top scorer and winning coach. Hockey never had it so good.

As only expected, the tournament became popular, each match drawing full crowds. But the then FIH treasurer Phil Appleyard, considered to be a great visionary in some section within the FIH, put a spoke in the wheel. He was here in Delhi as a special invitee of the organizers, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hockey Tournament Society.

He opposed to sponsors giving away prizes directly to players. They told hockey is an amateur sport and as such awarding to players are not permitted. This was an age old perception, even the IOC has abandoned. But the FIH was always good for nothing, and this occasion was one more.

Subrato Ray was stunned. His down right question was simple: Can’t a sponsor of a tournament give awards to players? The FIH official told bluntly, yes you can’t. When Subrato was told that in the event of a foreign player winning the car it would be impossible for him to import it to his country, he agreed. He told them that he will present them in cash equivalent to car’s worth. Normally, Phil should not have any objection to that. But by then he has grown big in the media’s eye (whether he would have got the type of media attention in England even when he was the organizing Secretary of the world Cup is a matter of conjecture). Phil was adamant enough to refuse that also. He asked him to give the money to the federation instead. Subrato brook no nonsense, and left the stadium, did not come for the final, withdrew all the five cars. Good bye to hockey. I still have the Press Release the Sahara Chairman released on that day. It’s a death letter for the Indian hockey. Hardly later did any corporate world come to hockey.

A few months later, he entered cricket world, sponsored the Sahara Cup being held ann

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