Under a dark cloud of allegations of corruption and wrongdoings, Narinder Batra, President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, defeated his rival Marc Coudron, chief of Belgium Hockey Federation, by a margin of two votes 63-61.
Narinder Batra is elected FIH President by a margin of two votes.
Narinder Batra of India narrowly beat Marc Coudron, president of the Belgian Hockey Federation, to hold the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) presidency at the virtual 47th Congress of the sport’s global governing body.
Due to travel limits levied in the aftermath of the continuing pandemic, the FIH Congress was held virtually. The 47th Congress was scheduled to take place in New Delhi last year but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the online voting process, which included 124 member associations, Batra received 63 votes to his rival’s 61. However, with such a close result, several media outlets have called for the vote to be clear and transparent, something that challenger Marc Coudron promised in his manifesto: “to make the governing body transparent in all decision makings.” Twenty seconds before voting began, another member state, Swaziland, logged into the voting process, which had no reported voting times. The timing of this alone has sparked concerns, with the candidates now needing a minimum of 63 votes to secure a majority. Surprisingly, or maybe predictably, Batra received exactly 63 votes.
In the press conference that followed, Ernst Baart of StudioHockey.com asked CEO Thierry Weil to make the voting public in the interest of transparency and to alleviate any allegations of corruption in the voting process. Weil, on the other hand, rejected the suggestion and refused to make the votes public, prompting accusations of corruption on social media.
Batra, who also holds several other positions outside of hockey, has declined to relinquish them in order to dedicate his time to hockey. Currently, the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, Batra, barely managed to pip Coudron, who said he would stand down from his position of the chief of Belgium Hockey Federation and on the country’s Olympic panel.
In his address through a virtual conference during the FIH Congress, Batra said: “My No 1 priority is to grow the sport globally and to do that, we need to constantly evolve with new formats and events. Provide the right kind of training and infrastructure to create a holistic ecosystem which is sustainable. And while we develop and grow our hockey universe, it is also essential to increase our visibility and reach. We need to keep up with an extremely dynamic landscape of mediums to reach and engage better with our fans. And equally so reach new audiences we have found in countries across the American and African sub-continents, among others.”
As to the challenges he looks to tackle in his second term as President, Batra said, “We need to enhance our financial stability. A well-developed revenue model from media rights holders and commercial partners is the key to achieve sustainable financial growth. I have seen keen interest in further engagement from Indian commercial partners, which I will continue to work with closely to channelise into global events and development initiatives.” Narinder Batra will hold the office until 2024 as the FIH had reduced the term from four to three years due to deferment of the Congress last year. Batra became the first non-European president of the FIH in 2016 after being elected to the top post by an overwhelming margin during the world body’s 45th Congress.