Desk of the President

In March of this year in this space, as I do from time to time, I gave the readers of International Hockey News an update on where the FIH stands with respect to many issues critical to the promotion and development of hockey around the world. The areas I addressed are all part of a multi-faceted plan the FIH began implementing about four years ago.

At that time, we examined our internal administrative structure, and responded by establishing an Executive Board and installing a full professional staff in our Brussels offices. That was just the start, and in the time since that decision was made, the FIH has made many advances.

With certain necessary groundwork having been laid, the FIH is now continuing to build upon this foundation. Three important areas - competition structure, development and marketing - are now our top priorities and will form the next important building blocks for world hockey.

The FIH Global Competition Task Force, which was instituted last September, has been working diligently since that time to make a detailed and careful analysis of the technical, financial and promotional aspects of the FIH's world level competition structure.

After giving a preliminary report to the FIH Executive Board and Council during the World Cup in May, the Task force met again in August in Brussels and followed up with its second report, the contents of which included feedback directly from our national associations. Further feedback is now being gathered - from all FIH Committees, the FIH Athletes Panel, representatives of Continental Federations and television and marketing executives. The Task Force, armed with this information, will make its final report and recommendations to the FIH Executive Board and Council in November of this year.

The outcome of the Task Force's work could potentially have an enormous impact on the structure of international hockey competition, qualification systems, responsibilities for host countries and participants, and the marketing and promotion of hockey through sponsorship, advertising and of course, television. And this should prove another important layer in the FIH's efforts to build hockey to the heights we all want it to reach and feel is possible.

With a new look competition structure likely in hockey's future, Marketing of that new structure to potential broadcasters and sponsors to obtain more exposure and income for our sport is the obvious next step. To that end, the FIH has enlisted the professional services of Mr. Adrien Vanden Eede, a Belgian, who formerly served as a consultant to the International Olympic Committee and various other sports bodies.

Finally, the game of hockey is not only about top level competition, but about the grass roots as well. Development of the game and its officials, therefore, is another essential building material for hockey's future. I am pleased to report further progress in the installation of two new synthetic surfaces as a part of the FIH/IOC Hockey Development Pitch Programme. New surfaces are scheduled to be installed in Cuba and Ghana by the end of 1998. A contract has been signed with AtroTurf for the installation of the Ghana surface.

Next, we intend to focus even greater attention on Umpiring and the development of quality umpires throughout all regions of the world. Regrettably, there are few top-level umpires from certain continents - particularly Asia and Africa - available for appointment to world level competition. It is impossible for the same umpires - who due to financial limitations are not paid professionals - to go from event to event throughout the year.

I have therefore personally taken up this issue and am working closely with the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee Graham Nash, and Committee member Horatio Servetto, to find ways to improve umpire development at the lower levels and to ensure a consistent upflow of quality umpires from all continents. Just as player development programmes are essential for national associations to ensure there will always be new stars to replace the old stars who decide to put away their sticks, the same is true of umpires, the best of whom also decide to hang up their whistles.

Commonwealth Congratulations

Congratulations to Australia's men's and women's hockey teams on winning the first-ever Commonwealth Games hockey gold medals. Hockey - along with other team sports - made its debut last month at the Kuala Lumpur Games. By all accounts, team sports and hockey in particular added a new and exciting dimension to this multi-sport event, helped in great part by the success of the Malaysian men's team which surprised many - perhaps even themselves - by earning a silver medal.

I would also like to extend my thanks and congratulations to the Malaysian Hockey Federation and the Malaysian Women's Hockey Federation for all their efforts in making hockey's first appearance at the Games as success. At this point, it is not clear whether hockey will be among the team sports chosen for the next Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England in 2002. I am sure all hockey enthusiasts would agree, we would love to see hockey in the programme in 2002, and the FIH will do its best to send this message loud and clear to the Commonwealth Games Federation. I believe hockey is good for the Games, and the Games are good for hockey.

75th Anniversary of the FIH

On 24th January 1999, the International Hockey Federation will celebrate its 75th Anniversary. Based on the theme - "Celebrating our past, building our future," the FIH plans to mark this important milestone with a programme to include seminars, youth camps, a hockey exposition in the Olympic Museum and a commemorative match, all during the 1999 calendar year.

You will read more details of the Anniversary plans in the upcoming issues of International Hockey News. For the time being, I invite you all to prepare to join the celebration.

Juan Angel Calzado

FIH President