FIH launches new Hockey Series for Olympic and World Cup qualification for countries not part of Pro League
The FIH (International Hockey Federation) have announced plans that will completely overhaul the existing structure of competitive hockey on the global stage.
A new tournament christened the Hockey Series will now act as a ticket to the Olympics and the World Cup apart from the continental events and the Hockey Pro League. As a result of the move, the Hockey World League will now be scrapped. The last edition of the Hockey World League Final was played in Bhubaneswar last December.
This is the second major change that the FIH have introduced after the announcement that the Hockey Pro League would replace the elite Champions Trophy. The upcoming Champions Trophy in Breda, Netherlands, will witness the end of the biennial event. The Champions Trophy was one of the most prestigious events in the hockey calendar, next only to the World Cup and Olympic Games.
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain are part of both the men's and women's Hockey Pro League, apart from Pakistan which is part of the men's edition only and China which is part of the women's edition only. India is the only major side which is not part of the HPL and Spain finds itself in the league in lieu of India.
What does the change mean for India?
India is not part of the Hockey Pro League and therefore will now have only two routes to qualify for Tokyo 2020. The quickest and simplest route will be to win the upcoming Asian Games. If India fails to win gold in Bangkok then it will have to attempt to reach Tokyo via the Hockey Series.
The first cycle of the Hockey Series Open is scheduled to start in June and end in September this year. FIH CEO Thierry Weil emphasized the importance of the new tournament which was announced yesterday in Lausanne. "These are hugely important competitions not only in terms of Olympic and World Cup qualification but also in terms of development. We will be heavily supporting the Hockey Series to ensure our sport remains exciting, engaging and relevant across all levels of the game."
In the future, the Hockey Series Open will act as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup as well. All countries which are part of the FIH are eligible to play the Hockey Series Open as long as they are not part of the Hockey Pro League. The Hockey Pro League, meanwhile, is set to begin in January 2019.
Route to Tokyo for the men
Japan will automatically qualify for the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of being the hosts and so will the five continental winners of the following tournaments.
Africa: African Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament
America: Pan American Games
Asia: Asian Games
Europe: European Nations Championship for Men
Oceania: Men’s Oceania Cup
Apart from the continental winners, the other nations will qualify as per the criteria announced by the FIH during the course of the Hockey Series Open.
FIH CEO Thierry Weil also added that the new tournament will also seek to develop hockey worldwide. "We have been working with a large number of stakeholders for a number of years to create a portfolio of events that help grow the sport at all levels. For emerging nations, the Hockey Series Open will provide a challenging and inspirational environment that will be unlike anything many will have experienced before, while the Hockey Series Finals will be spectacular events featuring many of the world’s best teams.”