Top European nations were told not to participate under national flags once plans were unveiled for the first senior Hockey 5s event to be held in Lausanne this week, The Hockey Paper can reveal.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is set to host its first top-level international Hockey5s event in Switzerland on June 4-5 at the Place de la Navigation on the shores of Lake Geneva – while the format has received short shrift from several top associations, including Spain and Germany.
The Lausanne event is intended to market and promote Hockey 5s, which was launched in 2013 and has been showcased at youth Olympic level. That is until the FIH began to be more vocal in Hockey 5s, starting in 2019 when it set about creating a World Cup, which has been awarded to Oman in early 2024.
England and Germany were due to participate in the first Lausanne event after taking up invites for the promotional event, scheduled for last September, before being cancelled after the FIH cited Covid concerns.
The FIH event this weekend is now set to field 10 invited teams across four continents, with only one European team, Poland, slated to take part.
MEN: Switzerland, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Poland (Men)
WOMEN: Switzerland, India, Poland, South Africa and Uruguay
The event received little interest from the top European nations. The German Hockey Federation was considering sending a group of former playing greats. Belgium Hockey was planning the same, while it reportedly has a budget of 5,000 Euros for the shortened format – a team will compete with the Netherlands in the EuroHockey 5s Championships in Poland this summer – while top Spanish clubs who hold sway within the national federation board have opposed the format.
“No matter who you send, don’t send players under your national flag,” was the message issued by the European Association of Hockey Clubs (EHCO), when news filtered through of a rescheduled date.
EHCO launched last year, with several top clubs signing up to form an international alliance to protect its continental domestic league structure.
“It was wrong to send European teams to the Lausanne tournament as it could spell the end of 11-a-side at some point,” said EHCO founder Leandro Martínez Zurita.
“If they had sent teams under flags then the FIH would use it to promote Hockey 5s and market it as a big success.”
The Lausanne event will likely be used to film matches as a way of promoting the sport at elite level. It remains to be seen how top federations will filter the sport into national programmes given the already cluttered schedule.
Early indications are that older or retired internationals could form a part, with younger players. It is also unclear at this stage whether the FIH could press for Hockey 5s at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. But this could spell disaster for the sport, given that the shortened format has not even held a first World Championship, as well as national associations opposing the sport.
Continental Hockey 5s tournaments will be organised and act as qualifiers for the Oman World Cup. Sixteen teams per gender will take part in the first Hockey5s World Cup, which is set for January 2024.
Martínez Zurita added: “We believe Hockey 5s can be a tool in areas where hockey infrastructure is low or non-existent, but by no means should it be in developed nations. We only see indoor hockey as an alternative.”