Early this morning in Dubai, the world governing body of field hockey, FIH, elected Narinder Batra as its 12th President.
What’s significant about this particular election is that Batra is the first non-European to hold the Presdency, and that the nation of his birth is India, a nation which dominated international men’s field hockey for most of the 20th Century.
But even more significant is what is on his resume.
He worked his way up from the ashes of the reorganization of the Indian Hockey Federation into Hockey India, becoming not only the President of HI, but also a guiding force behind the world’s first professional men’s field hockey competition, the Hockey India League.
HIL is a monthlong competition which, instead of having its players sign and develop players in a club system, has a draft in which teams are given a set salary cap, and can fill out its roster however it chooses, bearing in mind that it can’t try to stockpile talent (a la Miami Heat or Golden State Warriors) and not have enough players for the team.
Batra won the majority of votes on the first ballot, so I think he has a mandate to proceed on his platform. That platform, bluntly, is monetization. During his pitch to the FIH Congress, Batra preached “Reach and Revenue,” which pushes field hockey on television worldwide, and results in sponsors putting money into the sport.
With FIH taking a number of bold steps in order to professionalize its competitions and to offer prize money to the winners, Batra appears to be a natural choice.