It’s 2pm on Saturday 25 March 2023 on the last weekend of the league hockey season for many clubs up and down the country, writes Clifton Robinsons fan PHIL BAILEY.
Weeks and months of blood, sweat and tears have gone into the season: coaches, managers, players, administrators and volunteers will have put the hard yards and now, on this day promotion, relegation or play-off positions have gone down to the wire. England Hockey posts support this: ‘Final weekend of the England Hockey Leagues! High stakes battles, nail-biting finishes & top quality action as teams fight for points, play off survival and top spots.’
I manage to attend all home games for our women 1s, do go away but family and commitments mean this is occasional rather than regular. Like thousands of others, I do a bit of volunteering at the club and others do much more but on 27/03 I couldn’t make the away game and the two and a half to three hours travel. Fair play to the coaches, players, managers and officials who do this week in and out – mainly paying their way to do so!
2pm arrives when many games push off to decide these important events and then….. domestic hockey dives into radio silence. From around the country virtually no updates on these important matches and for some clubs their future.
As a supporter and follower of domestic hockey, someone who is rooting for their club today and knowing that for many it is a big day, I want to follow the action as it unfolds across the leagues and see how the ‘high stakes battles’, the ‘nail biting finishes’ and ‘top quality action unfolds’. Instead, there is nothing, supporters across the country are in the dark and don’t know how their team is doing. Half-time will come and go – are we still in poll position, are other results putting pressure on us – how is it looking as the quarters unfold and we go into the last few minutes – nothing!
When I am watching football, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing or cricket I can find the live action updates on numerous sites – for hockey zero.
Social Media gives the odd the odd post but not to follow as league events unfold. I flick to the England Hockey site but no updates. I don’t bother with BBC Sport as they don’t even report on domestic hockey – not interested unless there is an international medal at the end of it.
We used to be able to follow matches in some leagues live on Altiusrt but that has been taken away without explanation – so we have to put up with radio silence, perhaps flick through the sports channels and watch something else.
I know a lot of people work hard in hockey and sometimes unfairly get stick they do not deserve, I know funding in the game isn’t great and it does prohibit some things – but surely if we want to be taken seriously as a sport we have to have an infrastructure that gives access to the action as it unfolds and this needs to be led by the National Body and an agreement as to how we can follow action during the season – after all we did have it before Covid.
If we don’t have updates on our sport coming out centrally on a platform, then that sends out a message. We’ve heard about ‘Legacy’ many, many times over but on a Saturday or Sunday trying to follow domestic hockey and the action as it unfolds is nigh impossible.
It’s 3.40pm, some results are starting to dribble in on the 2pm games….. still waiting for ours.
Oh well back out to the garden to shift some of the frustration – it could have been a great afternoon following the highs, lows, shifting positions but it is still as if we are in the dark ages; this needs addressing by our national body, with the support of clubs, so that our sport is promoted and on par with other sports – so I’ll wait for final scores but this experience doesn’t really pull me into our fantastic sport.
I eventually find out that Clifton have won 4-3.
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