Sad to part ways, but I have left a legacy, Hockey India CEO says

High profile Elena Norman steps down soon after women’s chief coach Schopman is sacked

The resignation of Hockey India's CEO Elena Norman raises questions (photo: @TheHockeyIndia/X)
The resignation of Hockey India's CEO Elena Norman raises questions (photo: @TheHockeyIndia/X)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

Is all well inside Hockey India, which underlined its credentials as one of the best run national sports federations (NSFs) until the other day? Less than a week after national women’s chief coach Janneke Schopman alleged a "lack of respect" following her sacking, Hockey India's high-profile Australian CEO Elena Norman stepped down on Tuesday.

Norman, whose 13-year tenure saw a gradual resurgence in the sport which was once India’s calling card in the international arena, said she did not want to part on a negative note, but was quite devastated at having to take such an extreme call. "I think it is time for me to move on, though I am proud to have left a good legacy in hockey administration in India. Let me also clarify that my pending salary for last three months, which has been reported in the media, has also been released,’’ she said.

The balance sheet of Norman's term as CEO, ever since she was appointed by erstwhile Hockey India supremo Narinder Batra in 2011, is quite awe-inspiring. In a press release on Tuesday soon after her resignation, the federation invoked the language of a corporate send-off in praising her: ‘’During her regime in the top job, the Indian men and women’s hockey teams soared to great heights, achieving career-best world rankings as well as a historic feat in Tokyo Olympic Games…

"Under her leadership, the federation hosted two consecutive editions of FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2018 and 2023, two FIH Junior Men’s World Cup in 2016 and 2021 and also hosted five editions of the Hockey India League, a franchise based league that catapulted the performance of Indian men’s hockey team with youngsters getting to rub shoulders with some of the most elite global hockey stars.’’

The release also had Dilip Tirkey, a former India captain and HI president, thanking her for her "dedication and efforts", and for having played a pivotal role in turning around Indian hockey.

The resignation of two overseas women professionals, albeit coincidental, points a finger at the often diabolical world of sports administration in India — which is in essence patriarchal and overtly political — the recent example of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) being a case in point. Examples of women administrators at the helm of national sports bodies, irrespective of their credentials, are actually few and far between.

Speaking to National Herald over phone in an exclusive interview, an emotional Norman said: ‘’It’s extremely sad to part ways like this but I suppose that it had to come sometime. However, I have shown that there is room for a strong dominant woman to make a difference in Indian sport administration, something which would not have been possible 10 years back.’’


There are no prizes for guessing that Norman’s woes may have begun one and-a-half years ago when the new executive committee was installed under Tirkey, replacing the long serving Batra. The new committee, according to sources, felt her salary was too high, while the outgoing official admitted in an interview that she found the work environment rather "stifling" for her to carry on. ‘’When a new board comes in anywhere, it’s expected that they would like to move things around. Perhaps my services did not hold as much value to them as before,’’ she said.

There is another school of thought which feels that an ongoing case filed in Delhi High Court by former World Cup winner Aslam Sher Khan may have led to her exit. The case pertained to Hockey India’s administrative issues under Batra and Norman, and the court ordered a forensic audit of Hockey India’s accounts, the next hearing being scheduled for April. ‘’It’s a matter which is in court and I am in no position to comment,’’ Norman said.

What about the next assignment for her? ‘’Right now, I am going to take a three-month break and spend some time with the family. I come from a small town three hours to the south of Sydney, where I plan to do some fishing with my dad. After that, I will see,’’ she said.

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