Editorial — From an England or GB Hockey perspective, uncapped, unofficial international friendlies are funny old things.
You pull on a national shirt, line up for the anthems, flog yourself for four quarters and yet your cap number doesn’t move an inch.
England Hockey have an official stance on these glorified training ground games. Their remit is to keep away from all reporting of them. Save the flowers for next time should a player record a milestone cap.
This stance boggles some from other nations. Press box colleague Jaspreet Sahni, from the Times of India, was at a loss to explain GB Hockey’s ‘sorry state of affairs’ coverage of the just concluded SoftCo three-match series.
Not that the communications department being on furlough schemes had anything to do with it – nor is it their fault. This is, by all accounts, a coaching policy stretching back as far as I can remember.
I still have a missive sent in autumn 2014 kindly asking media present at a Bisham ‘international’ not to report on the uncapped match. ‘They are an opportunity for coaches to assess players from across the programme which is a set up they would like to keep’ was the concluding gist. So be it.
Irish hockey took a different mindset over the last four days. Coverage for shirt sponsors, women’s sport to name but two.
BBC Northern Ireland and RTE teamed up to stream and broadcast the three matches respectively and papers covered the matches. With the world silver medallists going for a first Olympics, RTE gave the sport some excellent airtime, including its upbeat opening montages.
“Such was Britain’s social media uninterest,” wrote the Irish Examiner, “their accounts chose not to post the result nor promote live streams available on both BBC NI and RTÉ on game day, preferring instead to let men’s international Alan Forsyth recount an admittedly humourous story about his mammy on Mother’s Day.”
Four years ago, the idea was mooted that British Olympic sports would face US-style TV trials to compete for places at Tokyo. The British Olympic Association initiative never took off while the plan didn’t seem to have legs for hockey’s team environment.
Thanks to these matches being broadcast, we certainly saw the Olympic effect take shape in the final match on Tuesday. With both squads bulging and soon to be whittled down to 16, these fine athletes were essentially playing for their Euro and Olympic places. It was worthy of cap status.
What we got to see was a behind-closed-doors, behind-the-scenes narrative which would otherwise have passed us all by without some Irish TV intervention.
Granted, the unofficial stance may be warranted as coaches plan their summer. But with no caps on offer, The Hockey Paper doffs its own to both broadcasters for the coverage.