‘Less is More?’ by Ernst Baart

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The start of a new year often is used to contemplate what has been done and how to learn from this towards the plans for the future. Which is a good thing to do on a regular basis and maybe more often than once a year…

Last year I’ve written several blog articles with my take on things regarding the future of our game. Among others:

Some of my wishes/predictions came true, others didn’t (yet)…. Such is life… I’m glad our governing body has shown not to be afraid to come back on innovations that did not have the support of those playing the game, such as the “own goal” rule. Also the announcement of a fixed calendar for international events over the next 4 years to come has been a welcome change.
I remain sceptical about the continued support for the blue pitch. It was a great idea and marketing gimmick for the London Games. However I thought it was pretty obvious it did not enhance the viewer experience (TV and stadium) with the glare caused by sun and water. But it still seems to be the preferred choice for the Rio Games it seems… Well you can’t win them all…

Less is more?

Another hot item on the agenda of those following the game of hockey on a global scale as opposed to just in their own backyard, has been the balance between international and national competitions. We’ve witnessed the birth of the World League. The women already had their first final of this competition and witnessed the rebirth of former champions Australia at the international toplevel reaching the final in Argentina. In a few days the men’s final is about to start in India. Allthough I am a fan of this new format allowing also for “smaller” hockey countries on the rise to get a taste of the international game, we do have to be aware for an overkill of international hockey. We now have the Olympics, the World Cup, the European Championship (or other continental tournaments) as the top title tournaments where all want to excel. The World League is the newest addition to the international calendar and does not rank very high as a title players aim for just yet, but this could change. The Champions Trophy is still around as well… and this is something I regret. It has served it’s purpose and in my opinion should be replaced by the Final Round of the new World League. The former British colonies (=a lot of hockey countries) are also still involved in the Commonwealth Games. Personally I do not see any added value for international hockey in the Champions Trophy and the Commonwealth Games anymore. I think they have become ballast on the international agenda and distract from the titles in international hockey.
When it comes to big international tournaments in sports I think the adagium “Less is more” is something to take into account. I’m well aware that more top events create more possibilities for sponsors to be shown to the world and of course everybody will agree we need the money from such sponsors to keep the momentum going for our sport. However sometimes it’s better to say “no” and keep up the quality of the existing events.

We must not forget this international calendar still has to be reconciled also with national events… Such as the very important European club scene with national competitions and the EHL. But also events like the HIL in India or the AHL in Australia. More than enough of tophockey to keep both top players as well as keen supporters occupied throughout the year… And all benefit from some time without our game as well. Because when the season restarts all of us are enthusiastic and excited again, which would not be the case if the season never stops…

I think we should also not worry so much about the lack of TV coverage in our parts of the world. The world is changing and while TV is still the medium for those parts of the world where the internet has not reached the masses yet, it is painfully clear that TV as we knew it is soon to be a thing of the past. The live streams provided on the internet by the FIH is the way to go to promote our game. It offers so much more possibilities to make the game more attractive for spectators all around the globe… and for sponsors when they catch up with their audience… Let’s be innovative in this as well and learn from other sports…

My wishlist for 2014

Anyway… these are some of the items I would to see for 2014 and beyond:

  • Less international tournaments by eliminating the Champions Trophy for example
  • Innovation for existing top competitions who should not be afraid to reinvent themselves
  • But above all the focus of international and national federations on the development of our game at grassroots level with a lot of attention for good infrastructure and good youth academies. This is the foundation and future of our game… the rest will follow…

Let’s celebrate hockey 😉

Ernst Baart

Twitter: @ebaart

Originally published at be-hockey.com (http://be-hockey.com/less-is-more/)

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