The organisers of the World Series Hockey (WSH) on Monday unveiled their first city-based franchise, Chennai Cheetahs, owned by a director and promoter of a South Indian mining company.
"The WSH has officially concluded the franchise allocation process and is pleased to announce Chennai Sports Organisers Pvt Ltd (CSO) as the franchisee owners of southern metropolis Chennai," the organisers said in a statement.
The Cheetahs are owned by Chennai Sports Organisers, backed by L.T. Nanwani, the director and promoter of Jubilee Granites mining company.
"It is a matter of great pride to own a franchise in the prestigious WSH. Chennai has always had a strong sports culture and we are committed to strengthening the talent pool of players. Extensive research has revealed that speed is a key attribute of the sport and hence our team is going to be aptly called Chennai Cheetahs," said Nanwani.
"We will expand our sports business by investing in multiple sports to create greater local connect with the fans."
The organisers said the other franchises will be announced one by one for strategic reasons.
Bollywood superstars Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan and another popular actor from tinsel town Suneil Shetty are believed to have shown interest in the city-based franchises.
The first four franchises will be by invitation while the remaining four will be through open bidding.
Yannick Colaco, the Chief Operating Officer of Nimbus Sport, said: "WSH has been very selective in identifying franchise owners who are passionate about hockey and share the common vision of creating a strong and viable ecosystem for the sport in India."
The league between the city-based franchises will be played from December 17-January 22 with over 200 players from all over the hockey-playing world taking part in it. The dates have become a bone of contention between the WSH and Hockey India which has decided to hold its national camp for the Olympic qualifiers around the same period.
The players will be distributed among the eight franchises on a draft system prevalent internationally.