The future of Big Stadium Hockey was dealt a damaging blow on Tuesday after England Hockey was forced to switch its men’s and women’s Pro League encounters with the Netherlands from Twickenham Stoop to Lee Valley due to poor ticket sales.
The hugely-anticipated double header weekend against the Oranje on the drop-in astroturf was due to take place on June 4-5, which also clashes with the Queen’s platinum jubilee bank holiday.
With sales dipping well below the required level – The Stoop holds close to 12,000 – it means that ticket holders will be transferred to the near 4,000-capacity Lee Valley. This shows the current uptake of interest for the Dutch matches, although the inaugural Stoop match in 2019 was a one-off, when England Hockey came close to a sell-out.
However, a month out from hosting the games at Harlequin’s rugby ground, England Hockey said that taking the matches to the Twickenham Stoop was not “economically viable” this year. A statement added: “We are saddened at having to make this decision, but it protects our ability to maintain investment in other areas of the sport.”
England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink said: “We are hugely disappointed not to be going to the Stoop this year. Big Stadium Hockey is an ambitious project to grow hockey’s visibility, and the number of registrants in our ticket ballot gave us confidence to take the matches to The Stoop.
“Unfortunately those expressions of interest have not translated to the expected level of ticket sales.”
Pink cited both the lifting of international travel restrictions this summer and the double Bank Holiday weekend in the first week of June as “key factors” in its decision.
In 2019, England Hockey said that the partnership with Harlequins would be a long-term deal to stage matches at The Stoop, despite the considerable cost in staging one-off weekends. Harlequins agreed to the switch to Lee Valley.
Ticket holders for The Stoop will automatically have their tickets transferred to the fixtures at Lee Valley. All existing ticket holders are being contacted with details regarding their ticket transfers and details of how to request a refund if required.
The change in venue means that Lee Valley now hosts four weekends of international hockey in May and June.
England matches at Lee Valley
21 May – England v France (Men) 1pm, v China (Women) 3:30pm
22 May – England v France (M) 12pm, v China (W) 2:30pm
28 May – England v SA (M) 12pm, v Spain (W) 2:30pm
29 May – England v SA (M) 12pm, v Spain (W) 2:30pm
4 Jun – England v Netherlands (W&M), 2pm/4:30pm
5 Jun – England v Netherlands (W&M), 1pm/3:30pm
18 Jun – England v Belgium (W&M), 2pm/4:30pm
19 Jun – England v Belgium (W&M), 1pm/3:30pm