After the immense success of the recent men's World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India is now eager to host the next edition to be held in 2022 as well.
Working at a hectic pace to submit a bid for the 2022 men's World Cup, India has caused a flutter in international circles by seeking to host back-to-back World Cups. If allotted, it would be the third World Cup staged in India since New Delhi hosted the 2010 edition.
The window for India to submit candidature to stage the 2022 World Cup came through the FIH decision to reopen the bids. Instead of announcing the next hosts ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar in December, the FIH Executive Board sprung a surprise by extending the time for potential hosts to step in.
Without citing any reasons for the unusual step, the FIH reopened bids for both men and women's World Cups to be staged in 2022, although it had received four bids from across three continents.
Australia, Germany and Malaysia had submitted candidature for both men and women's events ahead of the September 2017 deadline, while Spain's bid was only for the men's World Cup.
However, India has antagonised some of the top hockey nations by pulling out of the FIH Pro League and causing a lot of anxiety about the competition's financial viability in the absence of the nation with the biggest hockey audience. It is no secret that the international telecast rights have for decades been sold on the strength of India delivering a massive audience.
Due to its status as the commercial hub of international hockey, India's withdrawal has caused plenty of anxious moments for the FIH Pro League that got underway in January. However, the financial travails confronting a few hockey-playing countries could end up aiding India's efforts to stage the 2022 men's World Cup. After all, India remains the financial core of world hockey and the golden goose for the sport's governing body.
In the absence of India featuring in the FIH Pro League, the Indian corporate houses have been lukewarm in their response to sponsorship proposals. The FIH has also been forced to go out and sell country-wise telecast rights for the deals to make commercial sense in participating nations.
Notwithstanding that an Indian, Narinder Batra, heads the FIH as its first-ever non-European President, Hockey India officials realise that a monumental effort would be required to convince the global hockey chiefs to allow India to stage two successive World Cups for men at a time when several other countries are eager to host it. Nevertheless, Hockey India is pushing its case as competent hosts, the claim spurred by the impressive staging of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
Hockey India bosses have remained tight-lipped about plans of another World Cup bid, but the news filtered out in unusual circumstances when some of the potential hosts wanted an insight into hosting the 2018 edition. Indian officials quipped they could not share the host city details as they were considering another bid. It underscored the fact that India was planning this bid even when the World Cup was underway in Bhubaneswar.
India has been the prime hockey destination in recent times, having staged the men's World Cup in 2010 and 2018 " making it only the second country after The Netherlands to have hosted the premier event three times since its inception in 1971. Commercially, India also received the nod to stage two successive Junior World Cups in 2013 and 2016.
The Hockey Insider has learnt that there is some heartburn among other bidders since India had already hosted two of the past three World Cups. But FIH officials seem pleased as other bidders will now have to sweeten their commercial terms when competing with India, the country from which the world body earns its largest share of revenue.
When news of Indian plans first got out, the initial speculation among other bidders was that India might be eager to stage the women's World Cup " which it has never hosted. However, Hockey India does not seem to have any such plans for now.
The Hockey Insider has learnt that Australia was having second thoughts because the windows being offered for staging the World Cups " in January and July " were not entirely to its liking. There is a grim possibility that Australia may yet again decide to pull out of the race to bring the World Cup back to the country.
Australia was in contention to host the 2018 edition for both the men and women's World Cups, but financial reasons forced it to withdraw from the race. After Australia's withdrawal, India clinched the men's World Cup, while the women's event was allocated to London (England).
New Zealand has made it known to Executive Board members that it may now come in and submit a bid, even as Australia was appearing to dither over the prospects of being allocated a World Cup and being forced to fit it into the window offered by the FIH.
New Zealand's seriousness in bidding for a World Cup " which it has never hosted " would only be judged by its ability to quickly open discussions with Australia. Two bids from Oceania do not seem to make sense to the global hockey fraternity.