LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan, the patron of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), has instructed the management of the federation to make structural changes in its set-up, reduce the number of teams for national championship and establish centres of excellence in all four provinces.
PHF secretary Asif Bajwa disclosed this to Dawn after he, along with the federation president retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, met the prime minister in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Interestingly it was the prime minister’s first meeting with the PHF delegation since taking charge as PM two years ago. Despite being the PHF patron, it took two years for the PM to meet top officials of the hockey federation while the national game faced alarming decline in the country.
“The prime minister issued some instructions for the uplift of the game and promised full support by the government for raising the standard of Pakistan hockey to bring it back on the right track,” Bajwa said.
“The PM asked the delegation to present a detailed presentation during the next meeting in which changes should be made in the [PHF] structure after making necessary amendments in the constitution of the federation,” he added.
PM interested in reducing number of teams
“The prime minister is also interested in getting the number of teams [on domestic circuit] reduced in order to focus more on quality, not on quantity,” Bajwa stated.
It may be mentioned here that on the same instructions of the PM, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has reduced its number of domestic circuit teams from 16 to six. However, the move has left many cricketers jobless and several among them are now compelled to do odd, lower level jobs or do business while several departments abolished their cricket teams in the new domestic system.
Like cricket, hockey also has a significant number of departmental teams and a PCB-like structural change by the PHF — reducing the number of teams — may leave several hockey players in significant economic trouble.
“The PHF delegation told the prime minister that unlike the PCB which gets considerable financial support from the ICC, we need full support of the government to revive our hockey,” he said.
Bajwa said the prime minister also urged the delegation to organise national championships for different age groups, starting from Under-14, 16, 19.
It may be mentioned that for the last three years the PHF has not received any special grant from the federal government. Due to lack of funds, the PHF could not fulfil its commitment of participating in the FIH Pro League last year as a result of which it faced a fine of $100,000 from the game’s world governing body.
However, despite several reports carried by media that Pakistan’s participation in the FIH Pro League was in the doldrums no action was taken by the government. Moreover, recently the Pakistan Sports Board snubbed the PHF by excluding it from its Executive Board, giving no weight to it, and included football which currently has no elected body.