Wednesday, February 28, 2024

My 10-point plan to treat the top end of English hockey as a product

What do we need to do to take our club game to the next level? We have the format we are sticking with. Whether you like it or not it is here to stay, so it’s time to build a brighter future for club hockey.

We missed a massive opportunity after Rio and the gold medal success. The sport simply wasn’t ready and completely failed to capitalise on the success we had. You only have to look at netball and how their domestic competition exploded after the Commonwealth Games gold to see how badly an opportunity we missed.

The difference being that they had been planning for years to be ready for when that happened, and this was driven by the governing body. They had a clear vision and knew where they wanted to go and took their opportunity with both hands.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I say 10 point plan at top is not the first priority, get grass roots growing first and then top end will take care of itself. It is obviousle
    Must get more and better coaches involved at the bottom. .

  2. Great article , but in my humble opinion , state school hockey is the number one starting point, the money being poured into girls football by the F.A and the premier league means that if England hockey don’t get on it hockey will die out , there is a massive opportunity to grow the sport , i have volunteer coached hockey at state schools for 14 years , at the three schools that i volunteer at in Sutton Coldfield 24 children have joined at club this season Sept22/April23, that’s one person fund raising , coaching, and obtaining 2nd hand equipment at three schools joining two clubs that i am not part of , just think what would be possible if every club did that

  3. Agree with Peter Richardson. First let’s get club hockey better and more exciting. This means lots of effort to improve coaching so the sports grows from junior/ recreational hockey clubs through to regional pathways and then the National League Structure. EH admin for 2 tier National structure ensuring clubs are ready for NL Prem. Regions the feeder leagues again ensuring clubs are ready for the move to National. Clear pathway for younger players to feed into adult teams at the correct level, National Academy structure.

    NGB need to give more time and support to clubs with encouragement and insentives for clubs to increase volunteers who add time and specific expertise to a hockey club.

    Key though is to improve the coach pathway now.

    Need to make

  4. Every week I have to read someone else’s opinion on how to make the game they love ‘great’, and whilst I love the enthusiasm (please keep that!) it is followed by some oversimplified ‘and this is what we should do’ that ignores the fundamental constraints of the hockey system in the UK. These are not as easy to ‘magic away’ with some marketing speech and ploys.
    I am well aware that I will now put my own simplified view forward, but here goes anyway. Anytime, I read some story about how we are going to make hockey great, I think ‘but you forget that no one cares!’. Outside the very small number of people who play hockey or have relatives who do, no one in the UK cares about the sport. The reason for this is that the sport has lost the connection with the general public. This is not – to be clear – the fault of England Hockey; or a consequence (as James suggests) or opportunities missed following Rio. Rather, it is a consequence of the greater structure of sport in general in the UK.
    Central to the UK Sports system are schools. They introduce pupils to sport through PE, and provide after-school sport opportunities. This provides an induction to various mainstream sports, and creates connections with voluntary, community based, teams. This no longer happens (as much) for hockey. The reason for this is artificial pitches – when schools had ‘playing fields’ they were shared across sports, and (most) schools played and taught hockey. During the first wave of artificial pitches in the 80s and 90s, some of those schools adopted a 1st gen astro. However, as the technology for artificial grass developed with 3G and then 4G astro, schools have replaced their 1G astros with surfaces which are not deemed suitable for hockey.
    Additionally, the funding for PE and School sport has decreased over time. Through the PE and Sport premium, schools now have to justify what they spend on sport; and hockey is equipment heavy (sticks; shinpads; mouthguards, let alone goals etc) and it loses out. How often have we read that hockey has become dominated by the private schools?! Only 7% of UK children are privately educated, which means that the vast majority of UK children will not have played hockey … ever. In fact, we are probably entering a generation of parents who have never played hockey and therefore will not be encouraging their children into that sport. We are in a downward spiral, where fewer and fewer people will be exposed to the sport.

    The way to break that is through community clubs. They have to open their doors to state pupils; perhaps run free after school clubs; introduce children in a friendly way, and make the sport accessible. That is the biggest challenge of all. There is some evidence of schools and clubs thinking about this, but it seems to me fundamental to creating a greater ‘audience’ for the sport.

  5. rather than pay players clubs should be looking to bring on paid coaches, not just retired player, but full time professionally qualified degree level coaches, who not only work with the first team but can structure coaching throughout the club from the mini hockey to masters

  6. The reference to netball is interesting because the netball Superleague is a franchise system. Are we ready to create a top tier that includes none of our historic clubs and effectively creates a regional top tier representative team that would exist outside the club system? I think this would allow us to professionalise those teams and create a better commercial product, but the current top clubs wouldn’t like it

  7. Unfortunately the only way a franchise system will work is if they put resources behind Indoor Hockey, take the sport inside where they can have proper spectator seating, give TV something they can sell to the viewers. Sadly Outdoor Club level Hockey doesn’t have a big enough fan base to work financially.

  8. Giving Indoor space and time when so many outdoor matches are cancelled is an open goal. That England hockey refuse this opportunity beggars belief. Paying coaches and subsidising this if possible is the more sustainable if longer term strategy that I’d fabour

  9. Sadly I have come to the conclusion that hockey outside of the south east is probably in a downward spiral and EH are currently providing little leadership to prevent the decline. The causes for the decline? here are some – few clubs own their own pitches “preferring” to rely on schools and sports centres which puts them at risk when pitch renewal comes around. Few state schools now teach hockey. Other sports such as football and rugby require less expensive equipment and are strong competition for the interests of young sportswomen.
    What can EH do to help arrest this decline? Here are a few ideas – provide assistance to clubs looking to create there own facilities e.g. access to “cheap” funding, guidance on planning applications, legal assistance. EH should encourage clubs to build and own their own facilities, until this happens our sport in rural areas, where there are already few suitable pitches, will be especially “at risk”.

  10. The point about commercial partners is an interesting one – companies will pay for boxes at football because they can take clients there. Companies will pay millions for tiny F1 logos because they can get access to the paddock at races. Can we lay on hockey events that businesses want to bring their clients to?

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