New Delhi: Unperturbed by the FIH diktat asking member countries to either stay away from the World Series Hockey or risk Olympic exclusion, the organisers of the league today said they will "go ahead" as planned and take legal action against the game's governing body if necessary.
The WSH is a joint venture of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports television channel and is set to start in November this year with around 10 franchises fighting it out in the USD one million event.
"We are the only authorised body to run hockey in the country by the Government of India. The High Court has recognised us and revived us. Who is FIH to say they don't recognise us? It proves that they have scant respect for the court," a peeved IHF president RK Shetty told PTI.
"We will be going ahead with the tournament. There is no question of backing out. We are organising the tournament for the benefit of the players and for the development of hockey. I am really surprised why the FIH is interfering in our internal matters.
"I am a person who always prefers to sort out things across the table. I am the last person to opt for it but if pushed to the wall our legal options are always open," Shetty said.
The IHF chief also said the WSH is a domestic tournament and FIH has no say in its organisation.
"It is a tournament which will be held in India and not in any other country. It is just a 45-day pro-development tournament and will not clash with FIH events. I don't know why suddenly the FIH is acting like a big brother," Shetty said.
Even before its start, the WSH ran into rough weather with the FIH. In a strongly worded letter to all National Association's (NAs) earlier this week, FIH stated that it does not recognise the league and anyone participating in the event will be declared ineligible to participate in the Olympics.
The FIH also revealed that in collaboration with Hockey India, which is running the game in the country, it will launch its own hockey league soon.
"FIH has received reports from some national associations that some of their players have been approached from agencies supposing to represent franchises that will participate in the new league," it said.
"FIH does not recognise the WSH. FIH notes that matches in the WSH may conflict with FIH major events, which may compromise an athlete's participation in their national team program.
"Any player and any NA that participates in the WSH may render that player and NA ineligible to participate in any FIH tournament, including Olympic Qualifying tournaments and the Olympic Games," the FIH added.
The WSH was launched with much fanfare last month with the organisers signing India captain Rajpal Singh, Sandeep Singh, Sardara Singh, Adrian D'Souza, Dhananjay Mahadik, and Arjun Halappa among others for the tournament.
Apart from the Indian players, the organisers also approached a few international stars, including Australia's Jamie Dwyer, to be a part of the league.
But ever since its launch, the WSH has been hit by roadblocks with some of the major public sector employers, including Air India and Indian Oil Corporation, deciding against their players' participation in the cash-rich tournament.
As if it was not enough, the Pakistan Hockey Federation have also asked its players to stay away from the rebel league.
Even though they are still in dark about the diktat, the expulsion threat seemed to have worked as senior members of Indian hockey team, who have already signed contracts with the WSH, saying that in the present scenario they have no other option but to obey FIH's order.
"I didn't know about this (FIH's order). For any player representing the country is most important but let's see what happens," India captain Rajpal Singh said when asked about his view on FIH's diktat against WSH.
Star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh added: "I have no knowledge about the FIH order but 70 of us (Indian players) have signed contracts.
"If the FIH doesn't recognise it, we will have to abide by its decision. We can't go against the FIH and risk our participation in international events."
"Let's see what happens. We will have to discuss the issue with the organisers," he added.
Senior striker Arjun Halappa also sounded ignorant about the FIH threat but agreed with his team-mates that they can't afford to risk their international careers.
"I haven't heard anything. I will have to check it out in the FIH's website and then only I can make a comment. But playing for the country is the foremost priority of every player," Halappa said.