It’s often been said that one of the many reasons for the lack of attendances at top level domestic hockey, since the turn from grass to astro, is down to the fact that many can’t watch due to playing at different times on a weekend or away on the road.
Hockey has the profile and success – Rio and Commonwealth Games, anyone? – but the product (the weekly TV highlights offered by clubs bar Beeston for one) and proper marketing we all know are sadly lacking.
Thus, with half-term breaks in most leagues across England, there is surely no excuse this weekend not to venture along to a live Premier Division match local to you.
In person, like the hundreds who wore club shirts and filled Birmingham’s university grounds at the Commonwealth Games.
If English hockey wants to change, the domestic product has to be enriched. The template has to change. There are full-time players plying their trade every weekend with just 10s watching top flight hockey.
As The Hockey Paper has so often said, it’s frankly an embarrassment.
Then there are the strictly amateur players good enough for the top who make a choice of hockey over a social life. Players don’t deserve soulless atmospheres – it’s time for fans of hockey to be a catalyst for change.
This weekend – even better, both Premier Divisions are taking place on Saturday – there are chances galore in England (admittedly from Nottingham downwards) to break the tide of apathy.
Three Premier Division clubs will host men’s and women’s double headers against different clubs.
Holcombe are set for a ‘silly shirt social’ for their double headers against Nottingham and Beeston (are they sharing the same bus back, one wonders?)
Meanwhile, Hampstead & Westminster will combine their ‘Super Saturday’ with Oktoberfest celebrations at their Carlton Tavern base.
At the time of writing, there was no information on social media for what Reading has planned for its double bill.
Anyway, here’s the full set of matches taking place on Saturday (double headers in bold):
MEN’S PREMIER DIVISION
Beeston v East Grinstead, 2pm
Oxted v Old Georgians, 2.30pm
Holcombe v University of Nottingham, 4pm
Hampstead & Westminster v Brooklands Manchester University, 4pm
University of Exeter v Surbiton, 5.50pm
Reading v Wimbledon, 6.30pm
VITALITY WOMEN’S PREMIER DIVISION
Clifton Robinsons v East Grinstead, 12pm
University of Nottingham v Buckingham, 12.30pm
Holcombe v Beeston, 1.30pm
Hampstead & Westminster v Loughborough Students, 2pm
Wimbledon v Surbiton, 2pm
Reading v University of Birmingham, 4.30pm
Then there’s Women’s Premier Division leaders Surbiton heading to Wimbledon for only a second visit to their new London rivals. It’s first v third, both sides unbeaten and another heavy dose of international fare on show.
Clifton Robinsons, who must still hold the domestic attendance record of some 700 when Alex Danson-Bennett made her debut in 2016, are in second place and host East Grinstead for a 12pm start in Bristol. Top level sport in a major city at a decent time for all the family.
It will certainly be interesting to see if the half-term window, where thousands of players associated with top level clubs have a week off from playing, venture along to #watchyour1s.
In two weeks time, England Hockey will find out if their vision to sell 65,000 tickets for the men’s World Cup final in 2026 will take its first steps when the FIH announces the winning bid. My money is still 65 or less being present at most Premier Division matches this season. For one weekend at least, could we expect some bumper crowds?
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