Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Why is there no culture of watching hockey in England? This has to change

Eight years ago at a bustling Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, two now former England Hockey executives were discussing the future direction of hockey in England. The conversation centred around whether the game could go professional like rugby managed in the 90s. However, the narrative seemed to take a U-turn and one line stuck out, namely that the domestic game was doing nothing to help EH’s coffers, no love would be shown to it and the future direction lay in international hockey. In short, the national governing body had little care for clubs and progression.

From this correspondent’s perspective, it seemed a baffling stance to take. At the time, hockey had the World League and the Champions Trophy, events that were hardly setting the globe alight but certainly had the right concept, while international matches had been taken out of London and the play-offs hosted at different venues, with room to grow.

If the timeline is to be believed, the FIH Pro League, now into its third season, took over five years to be created.

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  1. If the portable pitch was indeed a ‘go anywhere’ solution, why did the Pro League go to The Stoop again? Why not Welford Road, Ricoh Arena or A J Bell stadium (or one of the endless list of similar stadia outside London)?

  2. It just isn’t in the public eye. BT have rights in the UK so you have to pay a fortune per month to watch small amounts of hockey in-between endless football.

    The BBC don’t even know hockey exists, reporting on (after every form of football) seemingly any tiny minority sport, but hockey barely makes it on to the sports page even when they win big. Is it ever reported on the news programs?

    There needs to be lobbying to get hockey seen more on TV before more people will even think of travelling to the badly placed Lee Valley centre.

  3. Viewers don’t watch hockey but that is not a problem limited just to UK. In 2015, FIH struck an eight-year, $250 million (around ₹ 1,500 crore now) television deal with Star Sports, giving it the TV rights in all FIH global territories, excluding Argentina. The success of this deal depended on a large part on the Hockey India League which had started in 2013. However, the Hockey India League failed in 2017. It had terrible TV ratings. That hit hockey hard. Nowadays, hockey on Indian TV channels, you will get live broadcast of most Indian matches, but they are usually on secondary channels which are often hard to locate. If there is any other live sport going on at the same time, then hockey almost always gets relegated. The galling thing is that this will happen even if the other sport is a niche sport that has very little following in India. The other day, the live broadcast of the thrilling India-Belgium Pro league match was cut off mid-match.

  4. Why is there no culture of watching hockey in England?

    Probably because, in England, the hockey culture is one of participation – personal challenge, contribution to the team, rewarded by, if not team success, then at least moments of personal success – the tackle, the pass, the save, the interception…

    To sit and watch others playing is a quite different culture, where the rewards are spectacle and entertainment. Take football, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf… If the crowds in the stands or in front of their TVs could do it, they’d be out there doing it. Indeed the more people that can’t, so watch, the greater the success of the entertainment product.

    So isn’t it a nonsense expecting participants to kick-start hockey as an entertainment product? But if not hockey people, then who? Hmmm… there’s a lot of competition out there.

  5. Hockey is not a spectator sport, mainly for players, parents etc…and EH continue to use Lea Valley making International hockey in UK non accessible


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