The past few weeks have been a time to recharge and prepare for the coming period when the four biggest events in 2006 will be played in a hectic three-month stretch starting in early July.
A pair of Champions Trophy tournaments followed by the men’s BDO Hockey World Cup and the women’s Samsung Hockey World Cup will provide a concentrated period of elite-level hockey.
The imminent release of the World Cup match schedules will allow teams and tournament organisers the chance to further focus their planning and embark on the final steps of their preparation phases.
Minor delays to the release of the match schedules has been necessary in part due to the issues created by the increased demand for hockey’s major events by television broadcasters.
This increased television exposure for hockey around the world has made it challenging to produce a match schedule that finely balances the needs of players, spectators and broadcasters (who are obviously located across the many time zones of the world).
This intricate ‘problem’ is one FIH is happy to face because it demonstrates the progress hockey has made in such a crucial area as television.
Without the exposure generated by television, our sport would find it more difficult to attract the high quality commercial partners that we currently have in BDO, Rabobank, Sahara and Samsung. It’s in the hockey family’s interests to maximise our global exposure to help guarantee our sport’s long term prospects.
While the short term focus is on the exciting cluster of major tournaments ahead, FIH has started the process to identify the hosts for a series of important events next year and beyond.
With the Olympic cycle reaching its midway point, our attention will more and more be directed towards the 2008 Beijing Games. However as far as FIH is concerned, the first priority on the road to Beijing is the qualification tournaments to identify the list of 12 men’s and12 women’s teams that will compete at our pinnacle event in August 2008.
The new Olympic qualification criteria has created an opportunity for more nations to host world-level events and FIH was overwhelmed with enthusiasm from National Associations when the initial expressions of interest were called for earlier this year.
Bid documents have now been distributed to national associations interested in hosting one of the six Olympic qualification events, with submissions due at the end of August.
FIH looks forward to receiving applications from the various countries and will face a tough task to select the winning bids.
Els van Breda Vriesman