Hockey India answerable for Oltmans and Walsh's conflict of interest
"The position of an India coach is above reproach," said Michael Nobbs about High Performance Director Oltmans and chief India coach Walsh's jobs with HIL.
Hockey India's (HI) High Performance Director and men's team chief coach are enjoying a paid holiday from their job with Sports Authority India (SAI), and the employers have happily signed on the leave application, fully aware that it comes at the cost of compromising the best interest of Indian hockey.
On the surface, HI and SAI appear concerned about the welfare of Indian hockey, but the face pack came off recently when they allowed their High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans and chief coach Terry Walsh take up jobs with Hockey India League (HIL), raising question marks over their allegiance.
Two men, who are on top of Indian hockey's welfare tree, will only be concerned about the growth of a particular group. At a time when their eye should have been on every player of the six HIL franchises over a 30-day period, Walsh and Oltmans will exercise bias towards Kalinga Lancers and UP Wizards, respectively, in full public glare. And the bosses will be merrily watching.
SAI, who had stopped Walsh's predecessor Nobbs from taking a similar assignment in HIL's first edition last year, had earlier termed Walsh and Oltman's association with the HIL as unethical. But later SAI gave in to HI's pressure by striking an agreement that the two foreigners won't be paid for their jobs with the national team during their one-month coaching stint in the HIL.
Both Oltmans and Walsh draw USD 15,000 (Rs 9.28 lakh) and USD 12,500 (Rs 7.73 lakh) respectively every month from SAI. But by allowing them to do a twin job, HI have put themselves under the scanner on whether they really care for the development of Indian hockey. And for that matter, SAI as well.
But SAI's stance wasn't the same in 2012, when it stopped Nobbs.
When contacted, the former India coach also expressed his surprise on Oltmans and Walsh being allowed to coach in the HIL. "When I was [India] coach, we [I and SAI] agreed that the position of a coach should not be compromised and is above reproach. I was representing the people of India and was paid by them to only that. That's where my allegiances were placed. This position was fully supported by the High Performance Director, Roelant Oltmans. I note he is now paid by SAI as well," Nobbs told IBNLive.
That's nothing but double standards. If a particular standard was set for one India coach, it should be the same for others. Then what made HI and SAI change their stance?
"I have got letters from SAI dated January 20 where it has been mentioned that both Oltmans and Walsh have the permissions to coach HIL teams. I got the letter on January 21 and both the letters are in my possession," HI secretary general Narinder Batra told reporters.
That's okay, Mr. Batra. But what made SAI give that permission and what made HI urge SAI to do that? Isn't it compromising the well-being of Indian hockey by letting two men holding the most important positions divide their focus, even if it's for just one month.
Plus, the federation also needs to explain that when Oltmans and Walsh are not employed by SAI during the HIL, does their work visa still allow them to work in India?
Isn't their HIL jobs also ground for bias when it comes to national team selection? Won't the players from two franchises Oltmans and Walsh coach stand a better chance of selection to national squad, even though HI and the two coaches will blatantly deny that?
Their jobs are to improve Indian hockey and not lap up a job-in-job offer; in fact, it should be a restriction in their contract. But to fans' utter disbelief, it is being facilitated by HI itself.
In all probability, Walsh and Oltmans will fly home for a recuperation holiday after 30 days of 'hard work' in the HIL. Then they will return to conduct a camp before flying for the World Cup. Where does that leave the bracket to do the development work, which is also key role in their job profile?
India have also decided to skip the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to prepare for the World Cup. Wouldn't it have been prudent to ask Walsh's assistant coaches MK Kaushik and V Baskaran to take a development squad to Malaysia?
Who will answer these seething questions? Who will explain this big slip-up? Will you, Hockey India?