By Rod Gilmour
World hockey chiefs are open to the idea of international tournaments being played on grass, initially with lower-ranking events. At the FIH Congress on Saturday, it was also confirmed that water-based surfaces will be replaced for the Paris 2024 Olympics, if not earlier.
Currently, it is mandatory for International Hockey Federation (FIH) tournaments to be hosted on artificial turf.
But a change could be implemented for the Olympic 2024 qualifiers, starting with the 2021 Hockey Series Open, which features lesser-ranked teams who could not otherwise afford installation costs. Elite tournaments will remain on artificial pitches.
The FIH also believes that the sport should be seen as a sustainable one and the world governing body is exploring ways on how to save water.
FIH chief executive Thierry Weil, in a wide-ranging day of news in New Delhi, said that any potential move to grass would “allow far more countries to be a part of the Road to Paris”, although top-end matches would continue to be played on synthetic turf.
These ideas were likely to be explored in the corridors of the FIH congress as the ‘turf to grass’ move was not on the official agenda, it was reported.
Weil, who joined the FIH this year, told The Indian Express: “The idea we are considering is that Hockey Series Open 2021 can be played on any surface, including grass.
“Right now, a lot of countries are not being able to play because of lack of surfaces but we can be a lot more inclusive if we allow it.
“Any country in the world that’s willing to participate in it on a turf of their choice, be it in Latin America, Africa, Asia … if four or five countries decide to play on a turf of their choice, FIH will have no problem with it. That’s the vision.”
At the main Congress, Weil also announced that the Paris 2024 Olympics will not be played on water-based pitches.
He said: “We have to go away from the water system. We can’t be seen to be continually wasting water while maybe next door people have not enough water to drink.
“It’s an important decision and it’s on us to work with the suppliers to bring a new product.
“We’re not talking about getting rid of it but getting a replacement and allowing the players getting the same quality of play we see today and hopefully it will be much cheaper.”