Europe

World hockey keen to engage after European clubs fears

The EHL is the premier continental competition in world hockey

By Rod Gilmour

World hockey is keen to hold talks with European clubs following news that there was growing concern on the continent over the way the global game is run.

The Hockey Paper exclusively reported in our last print issue that several top Euro nations were set to join forces and launch an association this month at the now put-on-hold Euro Hockey League (EHL).

There are fears over the Pro League’s six-month scheduling which is impacting on players being available for clubs, while it is understood that there is the need for a streamlined calendar to protect the prestigious EHL.

It has now emerged that one of the other factors stems from India’s stranglehold on hosting World Cups, both senior and junior (Odisha, home to the 2018 men’s World Cup, is now an FIH global partner) and fears that the game may be veering towards the five-a-side version over the traditional 11s. With the global pandemic likely to affect the future sporting economy, this could affect the Games programme at Paris 2024 as orgainisers look to cut costs – and athletes.

Speaking before the pandemic, Thierry Weil, the FIH chief executive, told The Hockey Paper: “I’ve always said that it is essential for the success and sustainability of the FIH Hockey Pro League to hear the feedback of all main hockey stakeholders involved.

“European clubs of course belong to them and I would greatly welcome to have an in-depth discussion with them about our global League. Therefore, my message to all these clubs is: ‘Let’s meet – or feel free to contact me – to share views and find some solutions. I look forward to engaging with you.”

A source close to a European club told THP last month: “If hockey is going to go down the professional direction then we have to look after the welfare of the players.”

Eight clubs reportedly met during the EHL in Barcelona last October to discuss the future direction of club hockey across Europe.

England is not currently one of the four nations mooted to be joining a European clubs’ association, but it is hoped this will change.

“We hope many English clubs will look at this with good eyes,” the source added. “We need to align to have one common view and the clubs being truly represented.”

The EHL was one of the first major hockey events to be put ‘on hold’ earlier in March following the coronavirus outbreak. Whether or not the KO8 can be played this year remains to be seen.

The decision would have been a disappointing, but understandable one for Surbiton HC, who were set to field four teams at the EHL in the first dual gender EHL.

Alongside the men and women, two junior sides were also set to travel out to Holland for the ABN Amro EHL U14.

The club had been working hard to raise funds for the European adventure, which would have further raised the profile of the club. Volunteers had worked tirelessly to help raise close to the £40,000 needed to fund the trips.

Both Surbiton elite sides look to have qualified for next year’s EHL after finishing top of their domestic leagues in the regular season.

Clubs are hopeful that England Hockey will announce a decision on this season’s league outcomes this week following a governing body board meeting.

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