Mired in controversies since its very inception, the multi-crore World Series Hockey was, on Monday, postponed until after the Olympic Qualifiers to be held, in New Delhi [ Images ], in February next year.
The event, a joint initiative of Nimbus [ Get Quote ] and the de-recognised Indian Hockey Federation, was to start on December 17 but with several Indian players pulling out to join the national camp in Bangalore for the Olympic Qualifiers, the Rs 10 crore event has been pushed to February 29.
The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled from February 16 to February 25 in New Delhi.
"We have postponed the tournament and it will start from February 29, after the Olympic qualifiers, under the same format. We did not want to put the national players who have signed contracts with us but later withdrawn into any trouble. I want them to play in the Olympic qualifiers and I will be happy if India [ Images ] qualifies for London [ Images ] Olympics [ Images ]," Indian Hockey Federation President R K Shetty said.
"We have been able to convince Nimbus to postpone the tournament though it was a very difficult decision for them. They have incurred huge losses. They have slotted prime time for the telecast of the matches on their Neo Channel and they have spent huge amount on other logistics.
"We also had to convince the franchises about the postponement. Some franchises including Chennai Cheetas were to start training from today. Now they have to cancel it for a later date. So it was a difficult thing to convince the franchises and Nimbus to the decision. But we do not want to put any problem to the national players. That was the only reason," he explained.
The postponement of the event was not entirely unexpected given the opposition it was facing from Hockey India, the FIH-recognised body to run the sport in the country.
Hockey India had even resorted to warning the Indian players against participating in the tournament, insisting that the league was illegal as it did not have the FIH's sanction.
The FIH too had backed Hockey India, stating that players joining the league would be suspended from international matches.
As a result, 12 top Indian players pulled out of in favour of the national camp which began on Sunday.
The likes of skipper Bharat Chettri, Tushar Khandekar, Yuvraj Walmiki, Sreejesh, Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh were among those who decided to skip WSH.
"These players have signed contracts with us though they have withdrawn from the tournament under threat in South Africa [ Images ] (where they played Champions Challenger). They will come back and play in WSH after the Olympic qualifiers. There is no doubt about that," Shetty said.
The first signs of national players not taking part came to light when six of them wrote a signed letter to Hockey India stating that they will take part in the camp. The next day six more sent across a similar letter to Hockey India.
The Indian Hockey Federation, in turn, accused the Hockey India of trying to sabotage the league and bullying the players into submission.
The WSH is to feature eight teams and will be played across nine venues in the country on a home and away basis.
Not just India, the WSH was also being opposed by the national federation of Pakistan but some of the players decided to participate in it nonetheless.