Indian men to join Pro League in 2020

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Women will be part of it only in 2021

The Indian men’s hockey team would join the elite Pro League a year early after the FIH approved the same on Tuesday.

India would join the competition in its second edition in 2020 after a spot opened up following Pakistan’s withdrawal. However, this is only for the men as the women are likely to join only in 2021 as planned earlier.

The International Hockey Federation’s Executive Board approved India’s inclusion after it was unanimously supported by the other associations. “It’s great that India will join the FIH Pro League next year. There is such a passion for hockey in the country that it will add a lot to our newest competition,” said FIH CEO Thierry Weil.

The FIH also tweaked the home-and-away concept to reduce the cost and travel burden on teams starting in 2020, splitting it over two seasons — teams will host twice in 2020 and travel away in 2021. However, the 2020 edition of the Pro League would have no bearing on qualifications for the Olympics or the 2022 World Cup, the format for which is yet to be decided.

Happy to agree

“There were talks between Hockey India and FIH since a slot opened up in 2020. We were also looking at the schedule and format, and were happy to agree,” said Elena Norman, HI CEO.

The Pro league has been facing trouble ever since it was first envisioned as a home-and-away competition. India had been one of the teams in the fray before Hockey India pulled out in July 2017, citing lack of clarity about points and format, and the Indian women’s low ranking. In January, Pakistan withdrew due to lack of funds, reducing the 2019 edition to an eight-team event for men.

The inaugural edition is currently being played in a round-robin home-and-away format with the top four teams advancing to the Olympic qualifiers, where they would join 10 others. The 14 teams will be paired as per the world rankings for two games each, with the winner on aggregate qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

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