Sunday, June 23, 2024

England, Wales Hockey set for 2026 men’s World Cup outcome

England’s James Albery believes a winning bid to host the standalone men’s 2026 World Cup would give a much-needed shot in the arm for the domestic game – but it must first overcome stiff competition from combined dual gender bids.

England Hockey and Wales Hockey will find out this week if they are to stage the men’s showpiece in four years time, which would include matches being played at a trio of rugby stadia and finals weekend staged at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with a capacity of over 60,000.

“We showed a few years ago the impact it had on the game and it showed what can be done. Packed stadiums can only be a positive,” said Albery, who plays for Old Georgians.

“Clubs are really trying to push people coming to watch. Hopefully this will inspire people to come down to their local clubs.”

When Albery first entered the stadium with some of the England and Wales international players, his first reaction was ‘wow’. 

“It seemed something that was out of reach,” admitted Albery. “The potential for it to happen was incredible. It’s hugely exciting for hockey in this country, but also for world hockey in terms of what can be done in transforming a stadium. The prospect is hugely exciting.”

England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink said that the bid was about thinking “outside the box” when he returned to the board with a proposal which, if given the green light by the FIH, could give the sport profile in the build-up to 2026.

“I don’t think they quite imagined what was coming back,” Pink told The Hockey Paper. “They gave us the license for being big and bold. They wanted something inspirational and something that would transform the sport like 2012 did.

England Hockey and Hockey Wales are bidding for co-hosted World Cup PIC: Alex Morton/Getty Images for England Hockey

Pink says that the bid is aiming to engage a more “diverse community” as it aims to inspire communities in Cardiff, Northampton, Twickenham and north London.

“Equally we are seeing the quality of the game and these players who come through our game and the clubs,” added Pink. “The future of our sport sits at the community level and the opportunity that clubs provide week in, week out.”

Can England win 2026 staging of men’s event?

England Hockey, which last hosted the male showpiece in 1986, believes it has a credible bid, given that the FIH bid document outlines a preference for one gender tournaments. The 2026 nominees include several combined men’s and women’s bids. “Separate bids are being sought for the women’s and men’s event,” the 2026 bid manual states.

England’s desire to stage a standalone event was given a helping hand when Germany withdrew their bid to host the men’s tournament, instead focusing on the EuroHockey 2023.

England will have competition from combined candidates. Jamilon Mulders, the former Netherlands women’s coach, told THP that the joint bid by Belgium and the Dutch to host the men’s and women’s event would be “one of the most unique” ever staged by the sport.

Meanwhile, one of the issues in hosting a 16-team World Cup is the poor attendances for some matches with lower-ranked nations. England may well be able to fill the venues (if ticket pricing is also low) given the unique venues, while Wavre and Amstelveen will be keenly attended.

Other than hosting Pro League matches, little is known of Potchefstroom and South African hockey’s marketing capacity. England Hockey’s Back The Bid has added significant weight to its campaign; while there has been limited acitivity by other national governing bodies.

FULL BIDS

2026 FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup:

Australia (host city: Melbourne/Geelong, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane/Gold Coast – to be confirmed)

South Africa (host city: Potchefstroom)

Uruguay (host city: to be confirmed)

2026 FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup:

England, in partnership with Wales (host cities: to be confirmed)

South Africa (host city: Potchefstroom)

2026 Men/Women combined World Cup

Belgium/Netherlands (host cities: Wavre and Amstelveen)

South Africa (host city: Potchefstroom)

The FIH will announce the winner during its Congress meeting on Nov 4-5.

Total Hockey

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