The Hockey Insider: India’s multi-million offer to host World Cup causes turbulence among bidders

  • The few nations still eager to host the event have been rattled by India's return to the bidding contest after already staging two World Cups in the space of 12 years.

  • After initial interest that graduated to submission of bids for the next men's World Cup, Australia, Germany, and Spain have all withdrawn from the contest.

  • The financial guarantee offered by India has caused a reduction of the field for men's World Cup to just three nations.

 The Hockey Insider: India’s multi-million offer to host World Cup causes turbulence among bidders

India’s eagerness to become the first country to stage two successive men’s hockey World Cups has caused turbulence among bidders for the sport’s premier event.

Notwithstanding that staging a 16-nation World Cup had become an enormous task, the few nations still eager to host the event have been rattled by India’s return to the bidding contest after already staging two World Cups in the space of 12 years.

The Hockey Insider has learnt the reason for some aspirants pulling out of the bidding contest was India’s multi-million guarantee, now offered to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) as profits from the 2023 World Cup for men. The guaranteed amount is pegged at 3.5 million Swiss Francs, which is outside the grasp of a majority of hockey-playing nations.

After initial interest that graduated to submission of bids for the next men’s World Cup, Australia, Germany, and Spain have all withdrawn from the contest. While Australia have refrained to even consider the women’s event, Germany and Spain have doubled their efforts for the World Cup for women, where the contest is wide open with five bids. Spain, strangely, features in two of these hosting bids — a stand-alone bid and another in partnership with The Netherlands.

India hosted the 2018 edition of Hockey World Cup. Image courtesy: Hockey India

India hosted the 2018 edition of the Hockey World Cup. Image courtesy: Hockey India

The Hockey Insider has learned that Spain are banking on their joint bid with The Netherlands to get approval, with matches in two preliminary groups each to be played in either country’s chosen city, along with two quarter-finals. The winners of two quarter-finals in Netherlands will travel to Spain for the semi-finals and final.

If the joint Spain-Netherlands bid is successful, it would be the first time that hockey’s premier event would feature a multi-national dimension, something the Europeans have borrowed from international football.

Hosts of the inaugural men’s World Cup in 1971 when the event was shifted from Pakistan owing to political problems, Spain were aspiring to bring the event back to its Catalonian region with matches played in Terrassa, a town on the outskirts of Barcelona, where the maiden World Cup was played. But after getting to know of the financial implications following India’s multi-million guarantee, Spain preferred to focus on stitching up a hosting partnership with Netherlands for the women’s World Cup.

The financial guarantee offered by India has caused a reduction of the field for men’s World Cup to just three nations. World Cup holders Belgium and Malaysia are the only two bidders still eager to match the Indian offer and aspire for the right to stage the next men’s World Cup.

Financially, Belgium are not known to be a hot spot for international hockey, but their ambitions have soared after clinching the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics and gold at the 2018 World Cup. Malaysia, on the other hand, have remained a hub for Asian hockey after staging the men’s World Cups in 1975 and 2002, and also the women’s World Cup in 1983. This time around, Malaysia are the only country bidding for the right to stage both the men and women’s World Cups. Malaysia, however, are not aspiring to host the two World Cups together, as The Netherlands had done in 1998 at Utrecht and 2014 at The Hague.

The financial parameters of the World Cups are going through a massive change with India a serious participant in the bidding for the right to stage the next edition. It is not for the first time that the financial parameters have changed for elite events featuring the Indian men’s hockey team since 2010, when the FIH reaped a bounty from staging the World Cup in New Delhi.

Australia were in contention to host the 2018 edition for both the men and women’s World Cups, but financial reasons made them withdraw from both. The men’s World Cup was allocated to India after Australia’s withdrawal, while the women’s event went to Britain’s capital, London. Both the events turned out to be immensely successful, prompting widespread interest in future FIH events.

Financially, however, the hockey fraternity just has a few nations willing to loosen the purse strings. If not already the front-runner, India’s bid is a fancied one. India, the financial hub of international hockey, have now forced some men’s World Cup bidders to look elsewhere to fulfill their hosting aspirations. They have been compelled to concentrate on the women’s World Cup, which has not aroused the interest of Hockey India.

Just as Australia’s intention to withdraw their bids came into the open, New Zealand stepped in with a bid for the women’s World Cup from Oceania.

The Hockey Insider has also discovered some heartburn among several member nations, who are unhappy at the FIH twice re-opening the bids for the next World Cups, thereby delaying the decision on finalising the venues. It has drastically reduced the time available for the chosen hosts to prepare for the elite event.

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Updated Date: Nov 04, 2019 17:45:41 IST