Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA), an affiliate of the Indian Hockey Federation, is in a dilemma after a state Government official sought the use of its stadium for conducting IHF's rival body Hockey India's upcoming League.
"We have already agreed to give our ground for the conduct of the World Series Hockey Season 2. We have now received a letter from the DSO (District Sports Officer) of Maharashtra Government asking us not to give our ground to anyone else for holding matches of Hockey India League," MHA Secretary Ram Singh Rathor said.
WSH, a joint initiative of IHF and Nimbus Sport, is scheduled to be held from December 15 to January 23 while HIL, sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation, is planned from January 6 onwards, leading to a potential clash of dates between the two rival leagues.
"We are and will remain with the IHF, but we do not want our players to suffer. We want them to play in all tournaments. That's also the instruction we have received from IHF President R K Shetty and K P S Gill (former IHF President) who know our concerns," said Rathor.
"We have already written back to DSO that its stadium has been allotted to WSH from December 1 to January 25."
Asked whether DSO can force them to give away the ground for HIL games, Rathor said MHA has told the officer to sort out the matter with IHF and Hockey India.
"This is the first time in our 75-year history that the DSO has sent such a letter asking us to give our ground to a third party (Hockey India). We are not against HIL and want our players to play in all tournaments," he said.
The association has already renewed lease of its premises with the State Government for 15 years till 2019 and has asked for a further lease of 15 years, Rathor said.
To queer the pitch further is a media statement on the proposed HIL issued yesterday by IHF Secretary General Ashok Mathur.
"Since Hockey India has conceded (to Delhi High Court) that it was a private body, it is not entitled to conduct official tournaments in India which is the sole prerogative of a national federation, which in this case is IHF," Mathur said.
"It is in this context that one should view Hockey India's attempt to replicate the IHF-conducted WSH league. Hockey India's attempt to organise its own league is unauthorised and illegal. IHF is open to taking legal recourse to stop these unauthorized domestic activities of Hockey India," he maintained.
Strangely, IHF has not issued a similar directive to MHA, one of its affiliated units, and Rathor and association President Manga Singh Bakshi pleaded ignorance on the matter.
MHA, Rathor said, received Rs 28 lakh, minus tax deducted at source, from WSH organisers last year for conducting nine matches of the competition, including one semi-final and the final, and their expenses amounted to Rs 8 lakh towards electricity and water charges.
MHA has also given membership to nine Mumbai-based Olympians and three other players, who had represented India in World Cups in the past, Rathor said.
"We plan to invite a couple of foreign club teams, one each from Asia and Europe, for our prestigious Bombay Gold Cup tournament whose dates will be announced shortly," Rathor said, detailing future plans of the association.
MHA will also conduct the Guru Tegh Bahadur Tournament in a move to revive all its events and give its affiliated clubs at least ten games in a year, he added.
The association plans to increase the strength of its umpires from 20-odd to close to 70 for efficient conduct of local league games, according to Rathor.