From the desk of the President
Juan Angel Calzado

It has been just more than one year since I took up the mantle of FIH President, and so, with 1997 coming to an end, it is an obvious time for reflection on the initiatives of the past 12 months, and to look forward to the coming year.

Above all else, 1997 brought an abundance of quality hockey, both mens and womens, seniors and juniors. Six major FIH tournaments were successfully organised in 1997 on four continents. The organising committees for each of these events are to be thanked for their dedication and commitment to promoting hockey. Congratulations go as well to all the athletes, regardless of the final scores and standings. Without all participants, the spectacle of the events would have suffered.

The past year saw the formation of an FIH Athletes Panel, an initiative long-discussed and finally brought to fruition. It is my fervent expectation that the Panel members, who are each assigned to an FIH Committee, will be valuable contributors to the advancement and evolution of the FIH.

Another significant accomplishment in 1997 is the recently completed re-draft of the FIH Statutes and bye-laws. This undertaking was an outgrowth of a meeting earlier in the year with the Presidents of the five continental federations. As a result, not only does the FIH now have an improved and more relevant set of guiding principles, communication and ties with FIH Continental Federations have also been strengthened by the process itself.

From the start of my tenure as FIH President, I have stressed more than any other issue, I believe the promotion of hockey through the spread of synthetic surfaces. This initiative will ultimately, in a very literal sense, provide a level playing field for countries wishing to improve and develop hockey. Many discussions and meetings have been held with FIH laboratories and FIH approved manufactures, in a quest to identify a durable, low-cost product to meet specific development needs.

I am pleased to announce that we are now assessing the viability of a specific programme of "Multi-purpose pitch" installations. If successfully funded, and here I am cautiously optimistic, the project would see the installation by the FIH of one to two synthetic surfaces per year, to be used primarily for hockey. A financial and funding analysis is currently being performed.

From the final round of FIH meetings in September 1997 came the decision to establish a task force to examine hockeys global competition format. The task force was proposed following a decision not to launch the World Hockey Series in 1997, as the elements essential for its success did not all come together at the right time.

The task force will analyze the existing competition format and recommend any necessary changes to improve the system. The members will be charged with maintaining the integrity of top-level competitions while also giving the less dominant hockey playing nations an increased opportunity for much needed and desired international competition. Finally, any new structure proposed should also result in a marketable "product" with respect to potential sponsors and broadcasters.

Another fundamental theme in the first year of my presidency, and one that I will continue to emphasize, is the importance of fair play. I am disappointed to report that as the year comes to a close, the talents of the FIH Disciplinary Panel are being put to use in the investigation of an incident during the Womens World Cup Qualifier in Harare, Zimbabwe. The infraction has led to the National Association involved suspending two players from international competition for one year. The FIH has yet to make its ruling.

Such incidents are most unfortunate, but on the bright side, they afford the opportunity to reiterate hockeys emphasis on being a clean, fair and safe sport. The world hockey family cannot forget these ideals, nor can we eschew their promotion. Just the opposite, in fact. The FIH, Continental Federations and National Associations are obliged to emphasize the importance of fair play clearly and firmly to hockey players at all levels.

Fair play does not mean athletes cannot play hard or physically. But it does mean that they must play by the rules, with respect for opponents and the match umpires and officials. Nothing less is going to be tolerated. I will continue to deliver this message as I have in the past, and ask the support of the world hockey community from top to bottom in this endeavour. This is even more important as we move forward into 1998 and closer to the most important hockey events on the FIH calendar, the World Cups.

With the excitement and grandeur of the double World Cups looming ever closer, 1998 promises to be an outstanding year for hockey. I hope it is also an outstanding year for every member of the hockey family. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Holiday season and the very best for a healthy, prosperous New Year.

Juan Angel Calzado
FIH President