Mumbai: A written undertaking by the International Hockey Federation (IHF) not to interfere in the proposed $3 million prize money World Series Hockey has paved the way for top players to take part in the tournament scheduled from December 15, 2011 to January 22, 2012.

"We have a written undertaking from the FIH (International Hockey Federation) not to interfere in the World Series Hockey after my meeting with (FIH Chief) Mr (Leander) Negre in London and Lausanne," said Harish Thawani, chairman of Nimbus Communications, which is conducting the league jointly with IHF, at a media conference on Thursday.

A total of 176 hockey players from India and across the world have been signed up by the organisers to play in the tournament that would feature eight franchise teams for 61 matches.

"All those players we have signed before March 31, 2011 have been allowed to take part by the FIH after my meeting with Mr Negre in London and Lausanne. As we had already signed all these players we wanted for the league before that date, it served our practical purposes. But we still are not willing to accept any cut off date," said Thawani.

According to Thawani, the fear of a legal battle in European courts could have swayed the thinking of FIH, which recognises rival body, Hockey India (HI) and not IHF.

"FIH will not interfere with players who had signed up with us before March 31, 2011. This I presume is based on legal advice," said Thawani, who added that among the players who have signed up were 40 overseas players from top hockey playing nations - Australia, Spain, England, Germany, Netherlands and Pakistan.

Top Indian internationals - Sardara Singh, Adrian D'Souza, Arjun Halappa and Prabhjot Singh - all of whom were present at the occasion, along with drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, were announced as captains of four outfits.

Four other teams would be captained by Australia's Brent Livermore, Pakistan's Rehan Butt, former Spain captain Rodrigo Garza and Argentina's Lucas Vila.

Six venues for the five-week long tournament have already been identified, which include Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab (Amritsar, Jalandhar and Chandigarh) Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Two more cities would be chosen subsequently, it was announced. The shortlisted centres are: Bhopal, Pune, Rourkela, Manipur, Lucknow and Kolkata.

Other Indian stars who would be seen are former captain Rajpal Singh, Diwakar Ram, Bharat Chetri, Dhanjay Mahadik, Shivendra Singh, Roshan Minz, William Xalco and Prabodh Tirkey.

A total of 61 matches, including two semifinals and best-of-three finals, would be played and all eight franchisee outfits would play 14 home and away ties each making it a total of 56 round robin ties.

The round robin phase will take place till January 11, 2012, followed by two semifinals on January 14 and 15 and the three-match finals on January 18, 20 and 22.

Thawani did not accept that there has been some sort of compromise in slotting the tournament, keeping in mind the players' schedule in international tournaments such as the Champions Trophy in Delhi (prior to the League) and the London Olympic preparatory camp and qualifiers (after the League).

"There was no conflict in the first place so there is no question of compromise," Thawani insisted.