ESS set to take Indian hockey into new league

NEW DELHI: India's "step-sister" sport of hockey has just been given a huge dose of much-needed marketing support in an intiative spearheaded by ESPN Star Sports in tandem with the Indian Hockey Federation and Leisure Sports Management.

The unveiling yesterday of logos and jerseys for the Tier I teams competing in the just launched Premier Hockey League (PHL) marks a new beginning for India's long-neglected national sport. The PHL will kick off in Hyderabad on 13 January, 2005.

PHL is the result of over three years of extensive work put in by ESS, the IHF and LSM. The league has been launched to increase the popularity of hockey in India.

JWT, the advertising agency of ESPN Star Sports India, designed the team logos while fashion designer Aparna Chandra was roped in to give the players and the teams a contemporary look.

The PHL launch was marked yesterday in the capital with a fashion show choreographed by Tania Lefebvre and Aparna Bahl. Captains of the five Tier I teams Gagan Ajit Singh (Sher-e-Jallandhar), Viren Rasquinha (Maratha Warriors), Ignace Tirkey (Chennai Veerans), Dilip Tirkey (Hyderabad Sultans) and Arjun Halappa (Bangalore High-Fliers) shared the ramp with leading models on the occasion.

Speaking at the occasion, IHF president KPS Gill said, "This is the first time in the history of Indian sports that an event, of such a large scale, has been created to launch a domestic championship. I am delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the ESS management in giving PHL such a grand launch after two years of hard work by LSM. This great game indeed merits this attention and more."

"We are indeed privileged to have ESPN Star Sports and Leisure Sports Management to partner us in this herculean task to create this new beginning through this league," said IHF general secretary K Jothikumaran.

According to ESS MD RC Venkateish, increased popularity will, in-turn, attract foreign players and at the same time encourage more and more youngsters to play the game. PHL will also provide the much-needed exposure to the game and the players.

"LSM will continue to work closely with IHF & ESS to ensure that the functioning of the league is smooth with the best of facilities being provided to participants and viewers," offered the company chairman and MD S S Dasgupta.

PHL offers total prize money of Rs 7.1 million. The winner will win Rs 3 million while the runners up will collect Rs 1 million. The winner of Tier II will get Rs 400,000 while the runner up will receive Rs 250,000. Allocation of above prizes between players and the respective associations shall be specified by IHF.

The league will have two tiers having five teams each in the first year. Tier I will be called the 'Premier Division' and Tier II will be called the 'First Division'. The League will follow a round robin format with all teams playing each other twice. The winner will be decided on the basis of total points.

PHL will also feature players from foreign countries like Pakistan, South Korea, Spain and others. All leading Indian players will reserve themselves to play the PHL. PHL will also present itself as the first sporting platform ever where Pakistani and Indian players will play in the same team, adds the release.

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