The UK is going hockey crazy, and that’s official. The BBC recently reported that ticket sales for this year’s women’s World Cup in London have exceeded 80,000, making it by far the biggest spectacle in women’s sport that the capital will be seeing this year.
The timing could not be better, as the rest of the world will still be in world cup mode, albeit of a different sort.
Dragging eyes away from Russia
In less than a month, all the sporting focus will be on Russia. Football fans, sports gambling fanatics and casual observers will be glued to the FIFA World Cup, which runs from 14 June to 16 July, and is rightly considered one of the showpiece events of the sporting calendar. The women’s hockey world cup always falls in the same year as the football one, but this year, the timing is exquisite. The event starts on 21 July, just days after the football finishes, and it will be action all the way till 05 August.
Tickets selling like hot cakes
The BBC’s reports of the immense ticket sales show just how much interest in women’s sport in general and hockey in particular has grown over recent years. Already, the games featuring England, along with the semi finals and finals are sold out, and only premium hospitality packages are now available. This is in spite of the stadium’s capacity having increased almost threefold, from 3,500 to 10,000.
In part, this surge in popularity is almost certainly down to Great Britain’s dramatic gold medal winning performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016, which was watched by nine million TV viewers. However, it is also part of a wider trend. Last year, England hosted the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup – the event was heralded an enormous success, with record-breaking attendances. But this year’s women’s hockey World Cup has already eclipsed those numbers.
What’s happening and when?
All the action takes place at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, which is within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London. The full schedule has now been published, and the first round of games will be on Saturday 21 July. Germany and South Africa have the honour of the opening match at midday, but it is the Pool B matchup between England and India, which starts at 2PM, that everyone will be talking about.
With sixteen teams spread across four pools, each team plays three pool games over the course of eight days, and then the event moves into the knockout stages. As well as India, England will also face USA and Ireland in Pool B.
What’s the form?
This will be the 16th women’s hockey World Cup, and The Netherlands have won seven times, including victory on home turf in 2014. In fact, they have featured in the last five consecutive World Cup finals. The best England have ever done is third place, which they achieved at the 2010 World Cup in Sydney.
The other two teams with great World Cup records are Australia and Argentina. In fact, only these three teams have featured in the last seven World Cup finals!
Can England build on the success of Team Great Britain and bring home the ultimate prize? They are certainly in with a realistic chance, and playing in front of a packed and partisan crowd can make all the difference.
If you’ve not already bought your ticket, and the premier options are a little out of your price range, you can at least follow all the action on BT Sport, which will be bringing live coverage of every match.