Road to the 21st Century

Hockey looks to the future

At the conclusion of the Congress, the FIH again took advantage of the rare opportunity to address the single largest gathering of top ho- ckey administrators from around the world. Continuing a practice begun at the 1994 Congress in Berlin, the FIH staged its second Open Forum, a public meeting of sorts, during which important issues are presented to Congress participants who can then give direct and immediate responses.

Again chaired by Hon. Treasurer, Phil Appleyard, this year's Open Forum was the launch pad for the FIH's `Road to the 21st Century'. The result of in-depth research and the FIH's increased efforts to pro- mote and market hockey, the Road to the 21st Century addressed four main areas:

  1. Development, presented by Theo Ykema, Chairman of the Development and Coaching Committee;
  2. Media and Communications, presented by Mary Coyle, FIH Communications Manager;
  3. The World Hockey Series, a new top-level, annual competi- tion now in development, presented by Steve Jaspan of the Competitions Committee, and
  4. Marketing and commercial opportunities related to the World Hockey Series, presented by David Burt, Chairman of the Marketing and Promotion Committee.

Also part of the line-up was Philip Lines of API Television, who spoke about the World Hockey Series and its prospects for attracting television interest. The speakers were supported by a professional, computer gene- rated audio-visual presentation created by the Belgian design company, Simonis.

The 2-1/2 hour presentation, in addition to the morning's Congress activities, made for a long and busy day. The audience however, while perhaps fatigued, was receptive and enthusiastic. The majority of the follow-up questions related to the proposed World Hockey Series, its qualification system, scheduling and its possible impact on the Champions Trophy.

A general audience consensus was that the amount of inte- resting and valuable information was somewhat overwhelming. Requests were made to have the presentation made available in a bound format and/or on CD- ROM. Both are now available through the FIH offices in Brussels.

The following is a summary of each of the four areas covered during the Open Forum Presen- tation:


The FIH's future Development programme aims to increase par- ticipation, improve the quality of play and to make the game more attractive for players, spectators, coaches and officials. This will be accomplished through the co- operative efforts of the newly- formed FIH Development and Coaching Committee, Continen- tal Federations and National Hockey Associations.

Specific Development initiatives include hockey for the young and very young, international under- 18 festivals and competitions and support through international coaching, umpiring and adminis- trator consultancy. Additional assistance will take the form of literature, videos, brochures and seminars addressing important development issues such as coaching, umpiring, adminis- tration and equipment.

Media and Communications initiatives

Through its Media and Commu- nications efforts, the FIH will attempt to further solidify links with both FIH member associa- tions and the world's hockey and sports press by improving two- way communications and offe- ring a timely and expanded information service.

A big step forward was taken recently when the FIH home site on the Internet became available. The FIH home page offers all the latest news on the FIH and inter- national hockey, tournament results, a calendar of events, contact details for all member associations and a summary of the world's top hockey administrators.

In addition, the FIH will be taking a closer look at itself and its image to explore new ways of presenting hockey and the FIH to the world audience. A slow evolution of image has already begun with updates over the past year to a number of official FIH publications. This trend will continue to achieve the goal of a fresh, consistent visual presen- tation in line with the sport's many other new initiatives.

World Hockey Series

The proposed World Hockey Series is a new, annual hockey competition, and is unprece- dented in the history of the sport. Designed to be a truly global competition, the World Hockey series will aim to spread hockey's popularity world-wide and to attract both television and sponsorship interest essential to the success of the initiative.

The World Hockey Series will be played in three rounds starting with regional groups and culminating in a final. It will span a 12-month period, but not a calendar year, with he first men's season planned to go from November 1997 to October 1998. The specific schedule, however, is still to be decided. The first women's season is planned for 1998-1999.

Commenting in follow-up to the Open Forum, FIH Hon. Secre- tary General, Els van Breda Vriesman said: `The World Hockey Series will achieve a wider and more global distribution of international competition. The FIH is very happy with our current major competition structure, including World Cups and the Olympic Games, which should remain intact. We recognise, however, that it does not give countries other than the top 12 a consistent opportunity to compete every year internationally in an FIH organised tournament.

`Through the World Hockey Series first-round tournaments held on a continental basis, many countries can compete with the knowledge that they can, if they are successful, advance to compete against the world's top hockey countries. It provides a meaning- ful, motivational competition structure.'

The new competition aims to give the largest number of countries the chance to compete, as the first round will consist of multiple four- nation tournaments played in four different regions. The four regions are: the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia/Oceania.

Any country in the world may enter the first round, although, a number of countries are not required to compete as they are automatically qualified for the second round. Each region in the first round will produce a winner to compete in the second round.

In the second round, the field is reduced to three regions and the continental combinations are shuffled slightly. The three regions are: Americas/Oceania, Europe and Africa/Asia.

The second round regional competitions will consist of four- nation tournaments in two regions and a five-nation tournament in the third region.

Each of the second-round competitions will produce a winner, making three teams to join a host nation for the World Hockey Series Final. The host nation for the final receives automatic qualification.

Marketing , commercial and television opportunities

The final segment of the presentation focused on the many commercial, marketing and television opportunities available as a result of the new World Hockey Series. A marketing strategy, including a detailed television offering, is currently being developed in co-operation with the FIH's television and sponsorship representatives, API. Significant television revenue is critical for the success of the Series, and without it, the Series will have difficulty going forward.

Phil Lines of API Television emphasised the challenges facing hockey in competing against the major sports, particularly football, for television time and revenue. Nevertheless, he re-confirmed his assessment and that of the API Group that there is a commercial market for hockey, particularly in Asia and the Indian sub-continent, and that World Hockey Series would be an attractive product in those areas.

Again, in comments following the presentation, Mrs. van Breda Vriesman said: `In the second round and the final, the World Hockey Series should generate substantial television, spectator and sponsor interest, which is our second major objective in developing the competition. Automatic second-round qualifi- cation for the world's top hockey countries should help to guarantee this. Furthermore, we will be certain to select venues for the second round and final which will ensure the greatest possible attendance and exposure.'