“Reach and revenue” has been Narinder Batra’s agenda going into the polls and soon after becoming the first non-European President of the International Hockey Federation, the veteran Indian sports administrator vowed to take the game across the globe.
Batra, who is the Hockey India President, defeated David Balbirnie of Ireland and Australia’s Ken Read to become the 12th FIH President — the first Asian to grab the post in the world body’s 92-year-old history.
Batra got 68 votes in his favour while Balbirnie and Read managed 29 and 13 votes respectively. Out of 118 voters, only 110 voted while eight abstained.
“I feel extremely honoured and I look forward to lead the FIH global hockey revolution,” he said addressing the media after his victory.
“My commitment is to hockey because I love the sport. I want to take hockey across the globe because now-a-days everything is calculated by reach and revenue. My priority will be to widen the base and extend geographical boundaries.
“To achieve that we can’t restrict hockey to just 10-12 nations. Hockey has to spread, hockey has to grow across the globe,” Batra said.
Besides taking the game to newer audiences, the new FIH chief also plans to make the game popular in economically rich countries.
“While China, India and USA drive the world’s economy, we also need to accept that these are potential markets for sports and it’s important to make the sport popular in these key markets,” Batra said.
“It is my firm belief that this innovation will lead to better commerce for hockey.”
A firm believer of FIH’s Hockey Revolution programme, Batra also knows the importance of digital media in making a game popular.
“We must also need to engage with a younger audience via various digital platforms. It is something which will take smart and strategic planning, and I look forward to the challenge,” he said.
“We need to ensure that we strike a right balance between the use of digital platforms for promotional purposes and television for reach and revenue growth,” the 59-year-old Indian said.
“If we want to create a hockey revolution, we first need to think about our players and give them nothing but the best. They are the custodians of our future,” he added.
Batra is also the first Indian to be elected as chief of an Olympic Sport’s international governing body. His win means the power centre of the sport will now move to Asia from Europe, which had been ruling international hockey for decades.
Batra, who became president of Hockey India in October 2014 after serving as its secretary, succeeds Spaniard Leandro Negre, who has been the FIH chief since 2008.
Other Europeans to have headed the FIH in the past were Rene Frank, Etienne Glichitch, Juan Antonio Calzado, Els van Breda Vriesman besides Negre.