FIH has come out with a new plan to promote field hockey, ” 9 a side 30 minutes game”. This move also dubbed as IPL hockey will help to promote hockey and gain more fans. The games will be faster, attacking and will be using music on the field plus cameras in the locker room (hockey players have locker room? My bad, I have always seen them in dug out). The tournament will be played for the first time in October (I’d rather have India vs Pakistan series during that time) and will feature Australia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and New Zealand. Initially the tournament will be 9 a side game, but by the end of the year it will be decided if its going to be eight a side or six a side game.
Also the tournament is backed by legendary coach Ric Charlesworth who said that it would be a great opportunity to gain more fans for Field Hockey. Many feel this would be good chance to promote hockey by showing attacking hockey. I for one is not convinced by this plan to promote the game. For a shorter version of the game we have indoor hockey, 6 a side game I do not want anyone to mess around with the traditional 70 min hockey game.
In order to make hockey popular, FIH should promote the traditional (real) hockey first. We have new things coming up for hockey promotion, example for the London Olympics we have blue pitch or Smurf Turf as its known. That is a promising step as sports fan will something new instead of the usual green. Hockey has always been a popular sport be it Olympics, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, there have been great demand for hockey tickets in any World event. But these tournaments happen once in every four years and the people have to wait to see the magic of hockey.
Instead of changing the format they should think of making hockey a regular affair. Having matches every weekend and conducting international tournaments like football does.
Football never went for major changes, but it grew and is the most popular game while hockey is losing its char. This is due to the approach taken by the officials to popularize the game and make it a household name. Today everyone knows who is Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, but how many people know Teun de Noojier or Sandeep Singh. FIH will have to clear its own house before they can think of changing the game. Euro Hockey League and Holland provides a great blueprint for FIH to follow.
TV and Internet provides a great medium to promote the game in the world. Even in country like India where cricket is popular TV channels show at least 3-4 football leagues, but they are not showing the Sultan Azlan Cup live. FIH may blame India for this but the real blame lies to them. Its the responsibility of FIH to make sure fans get an opportunity see games live on TV or Internet. But FIH is not doing anything for this, in a year FIH conducts maximum of 3 to 4 major tournaments on its own (Champions Trophy, Champions Challenge1 and 2). FIH need not conduct more tournament but it can at least come out with a internet channel (Hockey TV, HTV) and show the games live to the fans. This is much better plan to promote hockey than coming with projects like Project India or Project Brazil (though no one except FIH knows that are these projects).
FIH should take a stand now and think the real problems being faced by hockey today and come out with rational problems. People are not able to the traditional games live do you think they will be able to watch so called ‘new and innovative hockey’. If the FIH cannot understand the simple problems which are faced by fans they do not have any right to be there and talk about promotion of the game. Organizations like FIH are formed for governing, promoting and taking care of hockey and players, but they are not thinking about fans and to some extent the players (no official stats or cannot play in any tournament, however small it may be without permission). FIH compares itself to Football and Cricket, but hockey is noway near to it (even if cricket is played in handful countries). FIH should first analyze its position and hockey’s position in the world and then take any steps for the promotion of the game.
But for now, FIH should only concentrate on serving the needs of the fans like live games than coming out with absurd ideas of matches. Hockey is not cricket and should not even try to become something like that.