BY ROD GILMOUR
Great Britain stars could play for their Olympic places in US-style trials after hockey was confirmed as one of the sports in talks to compete in televised events prior to the 2020 Games.
The British Olympic Association has been open to the idea of staging multi-sport British trials since last year, in a bid to boost popularity and generate television revenue before Olympic Games.
England Hockey has held discussions with the BOA on how the concept would work, but The Hockey Paper can reveal that any commitments would hinge on world hockey’s new international calendar, which starts in 2019.
“We’re interested in how it could work for hockey and building the profile of the sport,” said Sally Munday, England Hockey’s chief executive.
“We have been clear with the BOA. The biggest challenge we have with this is the new FIH home and away calendar in 2019, so it is very difficult for us to be an active part of the conversations.”
Munday revealed that talks are currently at a “concept stage” with the BOA, along with seven other sports including gymnastics, rugby sevens and swimming.
It is understood that 16 cities have bid to stage the Team GB trials in 2020, which would be held one month before the Games. The idea is that three venues would co-host the competition, with broadcasters also weighing up bids.
The US trials have a first-past-the-post policy for selection and are seen as a way of building hype and excitement before the three-week Olympics begin.
How hockey chooses its athletes, however, has yet to be determined given the team sport environment contrasts with the approach of individual trials.
“We don’t know what kind of level we are at yet,” admitted Munday. “Our priority will be the home and away league and we are at a concept stage at the moment.
“The concept is a good thing and is hugely successful in the USA. The reality is that it will be tough for us to make it work.”
It is not known when the FIH will outline its international calendar, a structure which will have a bearing on England Hockey’s final decision. The FIH has previously said that the home and away series would take place between January and June.
The BOA is expected to make a decision on whether to take the trials forward by the end of the year.