FIH Congress: New president elected among a host of internal changes

The election of Dr Narinder Batra as president of the FIH during the Congress marks a further step towards a new era of growth and popularity for hockey, as Daniel Gardre reports

The 45th International Hockey Federation (FIH) Congress came to its conclusion on Sunday after six days of meetings, discussions and voting on the future direction of the sport. The event – held in Dubai’s Intercontinental Hotel – was focused on expanding hockey’s global appeal, and this was reflected by Dr Narinder Batra’s election as the new president of the sport’s governing body, becoming the first Asian to fill the position.

Earlier in the Congress, five national hockey associations were given full federation memberships in a step to fulfil the aims of the ‘Hockey Revolution 2: No Limits’ strategy, the successor to the ‘Hockey Revolution’ plan introduced during the 2014 Congress. Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Nicaragua, and Colombia were all incorporated into the FIH and elevated the number of member associations to 137, only 15 short of the target for 2024. They were given immediate voting rights, making them eligible to take part in the ensuing presidential elections.

At the No Limits Ball at the Armani Hotel, the winners of the Hockey Revolution Awards were announced in the presence of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. In recognition for her support of the sport, HRH Princess Haya was presented with a gift of artwork by outgoing FIH president Leandro Negre.

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HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein was presented with a gift of artwork by outgoing FIH President Leandro Negre

Three individuals were presented as candidates to replace Negre, who served as FIH president for eight years from 2008. Ken Read, chair of the Tasmania Hockey Board, David Balbirnie, secretary general of Irish Hockey, and Dr Narinder Batra, president of Hockey India since 2014, stood for election, and it was the latter who was nominated by a significant majority.

Having received 68 of the 118 available votes, with Balbirnie and Read receiving 29 and 13 respectively, Dr Batra also became the first Indian to be elected as head of an Olympic sports federation. He will begin his four-year term as president with immediate effect and will aim to successfully deliver the new event portfolio that begins in 2019.

Gender equality was another significant theme throughout the Congress and those involved made significant steps to increase the role of women within the organisation. A proposal from the Executive Board to alter the gender structure of the ruling body was sanctioned, meaning that the ordinary members of the board must be comprised of an equal number of men and women. As such, Uruguayan Hockey Federation president Danae Andrada and her Zambian counterpart Hazel Kennedy were elected to fill the vacant female positions.

With Dr Batra leaving his ordinary member position following his election, former FIH Athletes’ Committee chair Michael Green from Germany was chosen to complete the final two years of his term in one of the available men’s posts. Joining him are the secretary general of Macau Hockey Association, Tayyab Ikram, and the president of the Royal Dutch Hockey Federation, Erik Cornelissen.