Hockey India League To Be Revived, Marketing Partner Selected

The Hockey India League was last held in 2017. Image credit Hockey India

ockey India has appointed Big Bang Media Ventures as the exclusive commercial and marketing partner agency for the revival of its Hockey India League (HIL). The HIL was launched in 2013, but has not taken place since 2017.

As per the agreement, Big Bang Media Ventures Pvt Ltd will be responsible to bring in the title sponsor, associate sponsors, and also scout for possible franchise owners.

The following are the details for version 2.0 of the Hockey India League.

Teams: While the number of teams for the men's tournament isn't yet finalised, it is learnt that there will be four teams for the women's league, which will be held for the first time.

Format: The format of the games will be 11-a-side, thankfully, and not 5-a-side. The HIL differs in this regard from the IPL - where everybody chants the mantra that test cricket is the pinnacle of the sport, but then sponsors dump millions into a 3-hour T20 format of the game.

Locations: A Hockey India official said that their aim is to take the league to centers "where hockey is loved and people will flock to the stadium. So we won't necessarily look at cities like Mumbai or Delhi, where the response in the past has been poor."

Host cities being considered include Ranchi, Chandigadh, Lucknow, and also Chennai, which has a rich hockey history.

Dates: In the past, the HIL was held mostly in January and February. However, 2024 is an Olympic year, and Olympic qualification tournaments are set to be held in early 2024. The earliest available slot in 2024 will open up likely after the Paris Olympics.

Hockey India is in talks with the FIH to find a window that won't coincide with other tournaments, including the European club season, so that it will be convenient for women and men players to travel to India.

Impact: Almost all players who were a part of the team that won the hockey bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, India's first in 41 years, belong to the HIL generation.

After India made an early exit from the 2023 Men's Hockey World Cup on home soil earlier this year, legendary coach Ric Charlesworth was quick to point to the lack of a competitive league like HIL. "The HIL gave local players a boost," he had said. "The Indian players played alongside international players, and realised they also had two arms and two legs, and that they could compete with them."

Veteran goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh had told ESPN: "When HIL was introduced, we started observing how the foreigh players practice, how they attend meetings, how they prepare for matches, how they analyse their game after the match. It taught us to handle pressure, and to dream of winning big tournaments."

It didn't matter that the HIL lasted just for a month or so. As former captain Manpreet Singh once said, even a month of HIL helped him grow "several years" as a player.

Prior Attempts: A sober reminder that there were 3 prior attempts to start a hockey league in India - Premier Hockey League on ESPN (2005-2008), World Series Hockey on Neo Sports (2012) and Hockey India League on Star Sports (2013-2017).

They all crashed and burned, perhaps because the organisers appeared more concerned with splashing cash and adding glitz and glamour, as opposed to creating a sustainable product for the franchise owners, and for the long-term development of the sport.

Hockey In India Should Look To Kabaddi For League Success Metrics

he organisers of the Hockey India League should look to the Vivo Professional Kabaddi League (PKL) for success metrics on running a professional sports league.

Television Viewership

The first season of the PKL in 2014 was watched by 435 million people. Its viewership increased year-on-year in its subsequent seasons.

The opening day of the most recent PKL Season 9 was watched by 46 million viewers (2+U+R), with a consumption of 1.41 billion minutes, overshadowing even the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was watched by 31 million viewers in India over its first 6 days.

With the PKL being broadcast by official broadcast partner Star Sports in five languages over eight channels, kabaddi has become a widely followed sport all over India.

Broadcaster Revenue

Star Sports' estimated revenue from PKL Season 8 was ₹120 crore. The cost of associate sponsorship was ₹15 crore, and special partner deal was priced at ₹7 crore. For spot buying, brands had to spend ₹1.5 lakh per 10 seconds, as per industry estimates.

Star Sports had signed 11 sponsors for the season.

Title Sponsorship

Vivo bagged the title rights for the PKL for five years, starting 2017, for ₹262 crore. PKL prize money at stake was a consolidated sum of ₹8 crore, with the winners taking home ₹3 crore.

Melroy D'Souza, COO of Professional Management Group (PMG), had the following to say: "PKL is India's second-biggest sporting property after the IPL. PKL does well even in comparison to the reach of cricket. For example, the 2021 Men's T20 World Cup had a viewership of 320 million, whereas PKL has a total viewership of 250 million."

Odisha Government Extends Indian Hockey Sponsorship By 10 Years, Through 2023

Illustration by Sajith Kumar, courtesy Deccan Herald

he Odisha state cabinet chaired by chief minister Naveen Patnaik has cleared a proposal for extension of Indian men's/women's senior/junior hockey sponsorship by 10 more years, from 1 February, 2023 to 31 January, 2033.

Odisha Mining Corporation Ltd. (OMC) will release ₹434.12 crore, excluding applicable taxes, to Hockey India over the next 10 years.

OMC had earlier signed a five-year deal from 2018-2023 worth ₹100 crore after conglomerate Sahara India withdrew from sponsoring Indian hockey as it got caught up in legal issues. This deal has now been extended by ten more years.

The Odisha government press release stated: "Hockey being a widely popular sport among the youth in Odisha, with this decision, the government aims to provide further boost to the sport and attract more young players towards the sport. This will help in creation of a strong pipeline of talent in the state."

The government is branding Odisha as a global hub of hockey, contributing to the sport, business and tourism sectors. The state organised two back-to-back Men's Hockey World Cups in 2018 and 2023, and has created massive sports-related infrastructure in the state, including world-class hockey stadiums in Bhubaneswar and Raurkela.

Odisha's sponsorhsip has proved lucky for Indian men's and women's hockey - the men's team won a bronze medal after 41 years at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, while the women's team reached the semi-finals for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics.

How India Got To Host 3 Of The Past 4 Men's Hockey World Cups

Graphic of the 2023 Hockey World Cup mascot Olly courtesy Hockey India

ndia has hosted three of the last four editions of the Men's Hockey World Cup - 2010 (Delhi), 2018 (Bhubanesvar) and 2023 (Bhubanesvar-Raurkela). It's an unusual hosting rate for a country that has not even once qualified for the semi-finals of the Men's Hockey World Cup in the last 48 years. India has won the Hockey World Cup only once, in 1975 in Kuala Lumpur, and never made it to the semi-finals in all subsequent World Cups.

To understand this hosting anamoly of India and the Men's Hockey World Cup, one has to recognize the four pillars that shore up India's sporting framework - Union Government, State Government, Sports Federations and the Private Sector.

Sitting on a budget of about ₹4,360 crore (2021-22), the body running cricket in India (BCCI) and the league it spawned (IPL) is entirely run by the sports federation and supported by the private sector. No government support is needed by the BCCI, and no government support is given.

On the other hand, the combined income of all the non-cricket sporting federations in India put together doesn't even add up to a quarter of BCCI's income. India's non-cricket federations subsist on the largesse of either the Union Government or the State Governments.

Within their limited budgets, the non-cricket national federations have to pay match fees and coaching staff salaries, travel to international tournaments, hold age-group national championships, support state units, build sports infrastructure, and promote the game.

There is no money left for hosting the World Cup. This is where either the Union Government or a State Government steps in.

2010 Mens' Hockey World Cup

For the 2010 Hockey World Cup, the Union Government revamped the hosting site, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the capital, at a cost of ₹266 crore. This was part of the infrastructure upgrade for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, to be held in Delhi later in the year.

The extensive stadium renovations comprised

  • Increased seating capacity (16,200)
  • New Poligras turf on 2 match pitches and 1 practice pitch
  • Floodlights of 2200 lux illumination
  • Computer-operated sprinkler systems
  • 2 electronic scoreboards
  • State-of-the-art stadium acoustics

Additionally, the local state government in Delhi waived entertainment and luxury tax from the organisers of the World Cup. This saved the organisers ₹6.25 crore.

Hero Honda Motors Ltd. came on board as the title sponsor, in a deal worth around ₹12 crore. SAIL pledged ₹8 crore as the Presenting Sponsor, and India was ready to host the 2010 World Cup.

2018 Men's Hockey World Cup

In the runup to the 2018 Men's Hockey World Cup, the state government of Odisha stepped up in a big way, underwriting all hosting expenses.

The seating capacity of Kalinga Stadium in Bhubanesvar was increased from 9,000 to 15,000, with additional galleries constructed in the north and south sides of the stadium. Two brand new artificial turf pitches were installed. Floodlights at both the main pitch and the practice pitch were upgraded.

Dressing rooms for players, dining hall, conference hall, media tribune, broadcasters' room and CCTV cameras were added to the existing stadium infrastructure.

Bhubanesvar Municipal Corporation initiated extensive civic infrastructure upgrades. Roads were widened across the city. The number of city buses was increased. Overhead cables were replaced by underground cabling in the entire city.

Hockey-themed murals were painted across the city's walls. Cultural festivities and artisans' exhibitions were organised in the city. The opening ceremony was lavish in its scale and featured Bollywood stars.

The Odisha state government even ran an advertising campaign on the city buses of London. The campaign titled "Odisha by Morning, Hockey by Evening" featured branded buses showcasing the state as an exciting tourist and sporting destination.

The government of Odisha invited the ambassadors of the 15 participating countries (the sixteenth being India), as well as India's ambassadors to the participating countries. The government arranged tours of Bhubanesvar, Konark and Puri for diplomats and FIH officials.

With such care taken by the host government of Odisha, who would not want to come here again? That's exactly what happened, and Odisha won the hosting rights for the subsequent 2023 World Cup.

2023 Men's Hockey World Cup

The Odisha government added a host city to the World Cup, with the "Steel City" of Raurkela joining Bhubanesvar as the two venues of the 2023 Men's Hockey World Cup. Kalinga Stadium was tried and tested as a World Cup venue, but what about Raurkela?

A brand new stadium, the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium was built on 15 acres of land at the Biju Patnaik University of Technology campus in the city. With a seating capacity of 20,846 spectators, the stadium replaced Kalinga Hockey Stadium as the largest hockey stadium in Odisha.

As part of the stadium construction, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, swimming pool, roads, lawns, parking lots and other ancillary work were built in the stadium complex.

The concept of World Cup Village was introduced for the first time, with 225 rooms constructed to house 400 players and officials. All the participating teams in Raurkela stayed in five-star accommodation run by the Taj Group for the duration of the tournament. The catering at the stadium and the World Cup Village was provided by the Taj Group.

Raurkela got city infrastructure upgrades, with enhanced air connectivity and smart city/beautification projects.

With the full weight of the state government's backing, the 2023 Men's Hockey World Cup was a success on all fronts.

This then is the background for India hosting 3 of the last 4 World Cups, despite not winning a single World Cup medal for the past 48 years.

Photograph of the Month

Neha Goyal followed by players of Britain in the women's bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics on 6 August, 2021
Article by Sharada Ugra, courtesy The Voice of Fashion; Photograph by Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP

he Photograph of the Month for May 2023 is a rewind to the exciting women's hockey bronze medal match between India and Great Britain at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. This article in The Voice of Fashion was written by Sharada Ugra in December 2021.

"As the sporting year winds down, its highlights speed charging through our minds, there's one that has locked itself down, occupying a large corner of the memory. It is the Indian women's hockey team from Tokyo. The ones who didn't win a medal.

Amidst the deadweight of opportunities lost, and the anguish at being twisted by fate, I remember them as they were in Tokyo, always on the go - the most formidable collection of Indian women athletes we've seen on any sports field.

Their former scientific advisor Wayne Lombard, had looked at the "difference between our physical make up, body height and body mass compared to the western level players" for a research paper. He found that the Indian women were 18 percent lighter and 4 per cent shorter than western players.

But what the Indian women were able to do when on the move in Tokyo was what stuck. And has stayed.

At no point of their Olympic campaign did the Indian women appear out-run, out-muscled or pushed around. These were Indian women using their bodies to the maximum. To accelerate like Ferraris on flanks, to resist, feint and slip away from defenders, to use shoulder and hip to swivel and strike, to dive, to stretch and to leave everything of themselves on the field well beyond that sports cliché.

Every time they left the field, whether in victory or defeat, whether laughing or disconsolate, they looked spent. Every single day in Tokyo, you saw them putting body and soul through the wringer.

Since their last-place finish in Rio 2016, the Indian women had spent months and years internalising and training for the fact - as Lombard described it - that while their genetics could not be changed, biomechanics and practical science could make them faster, fitter and more agile.

On the field in Tokyo, we saw the Indian women turned into some offspring of Olympus, wielding the powers of creativity, improvisation, strength and fortitude, their hockey sticks weapons and shield.

Vandana Katariya 29, who was recently honoured with the Arjuna Award, is one of the oldest players on the squad, the scorer of a rare hat-trick against South Africa in a must-win match. She was to become to me - match after match, photo after photo - a human metaphor of what the Indian women's hockey team stood for as a whole.

This was the Indian woman athlete as one of the Furies, Greek goddesses of vengeance and retribution.

This is not a mere myth awash in ritual, this was real. This happened on the ground before our eyes.

It is what the Indian women's hockey team of Tokyo 2021 have done. Planted their flag and said to their successors, to unpredictable futures - we've shown you what is possible. Now go ahead and better this."

Money Matters

he state of Odisha, known for its passion for hockey, has set up 18 Hockey Training Centres (HTCs) for development of hockey at grassroots, while four more such centres will be opened soon to take the tally to 22 centres.

HTCs have been made functional in Sundargarh district (15 centres), along with 1 HTC each in Jajpur, Jujumura and Chattrapur. About 1,300 kids are currently training on the synthetic turfs in the HTCs.

The HTCs have been set up by the Department of Sports and Youth Services (DSYS) in partnership with Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre (HPC).

Rajiv Seth, the project director of the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High-Performance Centre (HPC), said they will provide coaches and processes at the HTCs across Odisha to expose young children to synthetic turf from an early age, and facilitate their smooth transition to higher-level hockey.

The Odisha Sports department has ensured that the HTCs are well-equipped with required training equipment and conditioning items that will enable holistic development of hockey from grassroots to elite.

Each HTC has two coaches engaged in this development programme. The HPC has created a coaching education pathway for all its grassroots coaches and supports them with several workshops and exposure tours.

David John, Director of Hockey for Odisha, stated that in the next few months, when all the centres will be operational, club-level championships will be conducted every weekend.

"Such competitions are common in countries like the US, Australia and the UK, and have been successful in keeping the talent engaged. The HTCs kids will similarly benefit from this initiative," he said.

The Odisha sports department is reaching out to schools, communities, and district/zilla parishads for maximum participation. The objective is to ensure the HTCs are functional and are very well utilised by the local kids in the vicinity of the HTCs.

Media Matters

ith the proposed revival of the Hockey India League next year, likely after the 2024 Paris Olympics, there are two sets of television viewership figures of relevance.

Viewership with respect to other Sporting Leagues

According to the 2016 figures released by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the IPL was viewed by 362 million viewers, followed by Indian Soccer League by 224 million, Professional Kabaddi League 220 million, the Pro-Wrestling League by 109 million, Hockey India League 43 million and Premier Badminton League by 36 million viewers.

If we compare opening night viewership, Hockey India League got the lowest opening night audience of only 1.1 million viewers. It is evident that the viewership numbers were not sustainable, and Hockey India League folded the following year.

Sports League Dates Duration Teams Opening Night Reach
Indian Premier League 9 Apr - 29 May, 2016 7 weeks 8 106.2 million
Pro Kabaddi League - Season 3 30 Jan - 5 Mar, 2016 5 weeks 8 42.2 million
Pro Kabaddi League - Season 4 25 Jun - 31 Jul, 2016 6 weeks 8 34.3 million
Premier Badminton League 2 Jan - 17 Jan, 2016 2 weeks 6 1.4 million
Hockey India League 18 Jan - 21 Feb, 2016 5 weeks 6 1.1 million

The target viewership numbers for Hockey India League should be the kind of ratings the Pro Kabaddi League and the Indian Soccer League attract.

Viewership Share in Multi-Games Telecasts

The other relevant viewership figure is hockey's share when multi-sport events like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games are telecast in India. At the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the following was the viewership share of the various Olympic events broadcast in India.

  • Hockey - 15.2%
  • Table Tennis - 13.7%
  • Badminton - 12.3%
  • Boxing - 12.2%

The hockey women in blue made it to the Olympic semifinals for the first time in their history. Their bronze medal game against Great Britain saw 311.3 million viewing minutes, according to BARC.

Similarly, the men's hockey team's bronze medal clash against Germany, which saw India win its first Olympic hockey medal in 41 years, recorded 260.9 million viewing points.

As can be seen by the above viewership figures, hockey has the critical mass of fans in India when it comes to multi-games competitions like the Olympics.

The challenge for Indian sports broadcasters is to translate hockey's known potential in global/quadrennial/country-vs-country events to domestic/annual/club vs. club leagues.

Records and Statistics

2022 Beighton Cup Winners Bharatiya Nau Sena with West Bengal Sports Minister Aroop Biswas and Olympian Gurbaksh Singh. Photo credit PTI

his month's edition of records and statistics is on teams that have won the Beighton Cup hockey tournament.

Initiated in 1895, the Beighton Cup is the oldest hockey tournament in India and among the oldest hockey tournaments in the world. It is played annually in Kolkata. The trophy was donated by Judge Thomas Durant Beighton of the Indian Civil Service and Legal Remembrancer to the Government of Bengal.

The Beighton Cup was played on natural grass at the Mohun Bagan ground on the Maidan in Kolkata before shifting to the artificial turf at Sports Authority of India's East centre in the last few years. The Beighton Cup has endured the test of time and was even held during World War I and World War II.

The great Dhyan Chand, in his autobiography "Goal", reckoned that the 1933 Beighton Cup hockey final between his team Jhansi Heroes and favourites Calcutta Customs was the best match of his career. He wrote in his autobiography: "Calcutta Customs was a great side those days; they had many who were then in the first flight of Indian hockey. The final was a great match, full of thrills, and it was just opportunism that gave us the victory."

Jhansi Heroes beat defending champions Calcutta Customs by a solitary goal that day. Dhyan Chand, with a crucial long pass to Ismail, helped his team score the winning goal. It remains Jhansi Heroes' only title to date.

  • The Beighton Cup was first held in 1895. Calcutta Naval Volunteers AC were the inaugural winners
  • The first non-local team to win the Beighton Cup was Ranchi-based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) Mission, in 1897
  • The first student-based team to win the Beighton Cup was St. James School of Kolkata, in 1900
  • Mohun Bagan has won the tournament 14 times and are the most successful team in the Beighton Cup hockey history
  • The tournament was not held 4 times - 1947 (Partition Riots), 2017 (SAI East renovations) and 2020/2021 (Covid-19 Pandemic)
  • Teams that have won the Beighton Cup 5 or more times are listed below.
Beighton Cup Winners Location Titles
Mohun Bagan Kolkata 14
Calcutta Customs Kolkata 12
Calcutta Rangers Kolkata 9
Indian Oil Corporation Delhi 7
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) Mission Ranchi 6
Seema Suraksha Bal (Border Security Force) Jalandhar 6
Bengal-Nagpur Railway Kolkata 6
Punjab & Sindh Bank Jalandhar 5