What would you change in Hockey? | Part 1

‘Hockey is a sport in permanent change’ must be the most quoted sentence heard lately, isn’t it?

We think and project our game as an open and sophisticated sport; change and innovation are becoming ‘traditional’ regarding rules and formats. This forward thinking that is reshaping the game year after year is sustained by the desire to attract new audiences.

If so much is changing recently it is then interesting to listen what some of the ‘thinkers’ of the game have to say about change in Hockey.

What would they change?
Would they change something at all?
Will they stop with all this permanent changes?

I have decided to invite some persons that are deeply involved with the game and have some thoughts to share.

Bernardo Fernandes


(Belgium | Blogger, thinker, former technical director)

Balance is the challenge

Those making decisions for players, teams, clubs, nations, continental and global hockey should always be searching for the balance between your own & everybody’s interests + short term & long term goals.
The eternal balance between short term & long term goals is the “easy” one… Meaning most people have had to deal with it some time or another in their life, probably often and unconsciously most likely every day. You’ll never hear me say it’s easy to solve and balance these two but most people understand it’s a challenge and agree it is important to balance them both. Still there will always be a lot of examples where the balance is heavily tipped towards the short term goals. Eyeing this years championship forgetting to build for the future by playing too much senior players, not allowing for young talent to take in some experience. Coming back too soon from the injury to not miss out this years big tournament, even if it means you’ll miss the next three in a row or never really get back to your previous abilities. Etcetera…
Much harder to grasp seems to be the subtle balance between what is good for you, your team, your club, your country… and what is good for all concerned in our sport. Or the balance to what is good for what seems close to you and what seems far away or even the adversary sometimes…
This is where people are concerned about foreigners in our European national competitions because it would weaken their own national team without realising we need stronger opponents to make our wins valuable victories. No glory comes from easy victories… This is where national team coaches have such a hard time allowing their players time away from their own programme.
I am a topsport father (Ernst is father from Dutch international Sander Baart), meaning a parent to a son playing at the highest level in his sport. Of course this means I have my eye on what is best for my son most of the time. However I’m also a fanatic fan of our sport beyond the games my kids or friends play in and I’ve been involved for many years in the growth of a typical western European sport club, the foundation of our game in these parts of the world. However the world is bigger then our own backyard and what is good for us here is not necessarily what will work in other cultures, other parts of the world. So based upon those experiences it became clear to me we need more people looking beyond immediate results and beyond what works in their own part of the world.
I was asked to describe what I wished for in our sport, what I would like to change… :
  • More players/parents who truly realise the team comes first in our game & focus on the game not the extra’s you sometimes get to enjoy as a top athlete
  • More coaches who realise it is a bigger legacy to leave behind a team/club able to compete for the top prizes for years to come then to have won 3 titles in a row and leave behind a team/club in need to rebuild from the ground up = manage the balance between experienced top players and up & coming talent at all times
  • More clubs/organisations who realise they need a professional technical director guarding the long term goals and who is independent from the current teams. So a leader/manager of the current head coaches, not one of them…
  • More national team coaches who see beyond their own programme…
  • More administrators at the federation level (national, regional and global) who recognise the importance of thorough cross-border planning for the short, the mid and the long term
What I hope will never change in our sport of hockey is our open mind towards innovation and new rules to improve the game. Although sometimes we also need to pace ourselves, innovation because of innovation or outside pressure (like the IOC who prefer smaller teams because of logistics and budgets) is not the right kind of innovation. Here also balance is the challenge, the balance between innovation and tradition.

Balance is the challenge… at all levels.



(Belgium | Assistant coach of Belgium National Team, former International)

  • No more Champions Trophy,  Hockey World League (HWL) round 4 should replace this tournament in international calendar and should have a final prize money.
  • Different qualifying procedure; HWL as only qualifier for World Cup, Olympic Games with new format, so it is clear for all what you play for… Continental tournaments should be for ranking points and of course for the title, like in football, this way we will avoid to wait for other results and to play against teams that are already qualified…
  • Keep the hockey rules like they are till 2020… no more changes to make it easier to follow for old and new fans.
  • During international competitions possibility to play with 16 players, with at least 1 rest day before every game.
  • Continuous evolution of the promotion and presentation of our sport and atheletes, to make it an even more competitive product in the market…



(South Africa | FIH Umpire)

I think that field hockey is probably one of very few sporting codes which is constantly looking at changing the game, or the rules thereof, in order to make it more spectator-friendly and exciting to watch.  Every year there seem to be experimental rules that are played over a period of time, from where the FIH will either accept the new rule, or revert to the ‘old’ rule.

My personal opinion is that we as a hockey community, regardless of being a player, spectator, coach or official, are on the right track to grow the community and hopefully, in the long run, provide field hockey the international status as a professional sporting code in many more countries than what we currently have.

From an umpiring point of view,  I would compare our tournament preparations to that of other officials from professional sporting codes such as football and rugby and it is clear that without proper funding we will never be as professional and well prepared for tournaments as what we would like to be.  With our current structure and limited funding, I think we are doing a great job.  It would be great if we could have Officials Training Camps, at least once or twice per year, prior to the start of major competitions, where we attend seminars, do fitness analysis, testing, training and umpiring matches to help us be as best prepared as we could possibly be, as a team, prior to entering the start of these tournaments.  The objective of this training camp should be to provide all umpires equal opportunity to gain experience on the ‘new rules’ , video umpire referral system and also to build a TEAM based upon the rules, regulations and format of the tournament ahead.

I would also like to see a point where coaches, players, and/or teams have the opportunity to provide the umpires with constructive feedback, and perhaps even allow us, from an umpiring perspective, to share our views and/or experiences.  This seems to happen on local grounds, but not at an international level.   The idea is to close the gap between umpires/officials and the coaches and teams, in order for all parties involved to have mutual respect and understanding of the game on all the different levels of involvement.

As officials/umpires, we are as passionate about hockey as any player, coach, manager, etc.  We would love to see our sport succeed in being recognized as an exciting and world class sport where we have increased number of participants from all over the world.



2 thoughts on “What would you change in Hockey? | Part 1

  1. Pingback: What would you change in Hockey? | Part 2 | Self-Pass

  2. Pingback: What would you change in Hockey? | Self-Pass | FHumpires

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