Saturday, March 2, 2024

England Hockey: ‘We punch above our weight with football in our pitch strategy’

The Hockey Paper and our readers pose questions to England Hockey CEO Nick Pink on its new strategy, which promises to make the sport more visible, relevant and accessible over a five-year period

Please can you tell us your plans to turnaround the decline of hockey in state schools and stop the never-ending closure of hockey pitches. The FA seem to be funding huge numbers of astros suitable for football but under current hockey rules they are not suitable for us to play hockey on. What is stopping hockey being played on these pitches at a club level and why can’t we use them? So many clubs are losing pitches and players, EH never seems to have any interest or money for grass roots hockey, it’s always international this or international that. With no grass roots there is no international scene.
Frank Bothamley

Nick Pink: Football is played up and down the country. The amount spent on football compared to a sport like hockey is staggeringly different. The FA turns over, over half a billion a year, we turn over 10 million a year. It’s very different sizes, it’s not an excuse but I think it’s putting into context where we sit and where we are I guess, economically in the way that the sporting system is structured. 

But fundamentally, I think we punch well above our weight in terms of where hockey is able to influence, particularly when it comes to negotiations around playing pitch strategy. Which ultimately is what sits behind the question that has been asked there, our team, we have quite a small facilities team but they’re working with clubs up and down the country at the moment we’ve got about 100 playing pitch strategies that are live at the moment. 

And what were trying to do is influence exactly the point that underpins the question, which is how can we make sure that those pitches and the decisions made by schools, local authorities, and others that are ultimately making the final decision, are multi sport facilities that hockey can be played upon and that’s the bit to influence. 

There are some governance changes that are going on as well within Europe specifically, but the use of rubber crumb and rubber is changing which is definitely putting stress and pressure on the 3G point that was raised in the question and in addition to that it’s about the accessibility of those facilities for other sports. 

If 3G pitches or the equivalent of, are football only, how can other sports get the opportunity to play on those pitches at the same time? 

That’s very much part of the leverage we’re using as we start to influence local decision makers. To make sure those pitches are hockey-friendly, and hockey ready. So in our new strategy we want to come back to this generally on our general facilities plan and we want to do more to support clubs. I’m sure there are more questions in that space, clubs are asking, even in this strategy review – this is such an important area, it’s critical to the sport.

We know that only 11% of hockey clubs in the country own their facilities and we know that when those hockey facilities are owned, my goodness does it make a difference to participation in the sport. 

So we know there’s a direct correlation between ownership and accessibility of those facilities to participation in the game – so that’s a big area of focus for us in this strategic window. But yes we have a dedicated team, we’re doing everything we possibly can to make this a priority, we work incredibly hard to try and support clubs up and down the country, clubs do some amazing things to try and support themselves as well but we’re fighting the biggest sport in the country ultimately. 

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