Hockey: Game vs Brand!



I embrace different roles in the sport: I am firstly and primarly a coach, then also a coach educator, a marketeer, a businessman and above all an enthusiast (freak some would say).
Those different areas, when in complementary balance help me to have a wider and deeper understanding of the hockey game inside the pitch and the hockey ‘brand’ outside.

When asked about the current state of hockey, I usually answer something along the lines of:

‘Exciting times! We are living a period where we can make a difference. Hockey will now step up!’ – this is a recurrent thought that expresses my very favorable view of current hockey scenario but…

(and because everything that comes before a ‘but’ can be of doubtful importance)

It is also the time where governing bodies and we, the ‘hockey society’ need to be firmly aligned in a common vision.

Lately, I find myself reflecting repeatedly about the same subjects; the limited professionalism of our sport (resources, knowledge, etc) and the over-focus on international hockey that with a unbalanced calendar and strange competitive formats affects players and viewers.
Mostly, what I regret is the the lack of strong top-down identity for our sport.
In order to progress we should no longer fit the upscale-family-beer-drinking sport stereotype.

Not so long ago, we talked about the globalization of the sport, the need of decreasing the gap between top and developing hockey countries.
Now, especially after london2012 and the warning of IOC regarding low media exposure, FIH presented the new marketing approach ‘hockey revolution’ that is very much focused on the top tier of the sport, mainly on international events.

The new competition format from FIH, the Pro Hockey League arrives next year to confirm a clear strategy that privileges a selected group nations competing in a home and away yearly circuit – less globalization, more segmentation of the very best (and/or with well financed).

pro league.png

I will not go into a critical tone about the Pro Hockey League, (for which I am not a big fan) as there are enough people and in better position already being vocal about this upcoming competition.
Although, I wonder if the technical committees from federations like Netherlands, Belgium, GB, Germany, Australia and Argentina or even Ireland, China, South Africa, etc, been consulted about the significant changes in the game?

How many hockey’s are there? International Hockey, Club hockey, Hockey 5’s, Hockey 9’s, Indoor Hockey…

Where do we stand now? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Indoor Fever 2K18


Video credits: Paul Hüttemann / DHB

Please watch the video above. Impossible to remain indifferent, right?
This movie is a beautiful illustration of an impressive Indoor World Cup with all the ingredients of a top sports event:

  • Passionated fans
  • Iconised athletes
  • Top level and exciting matches
  • Outstanding organisation
  • An easy to watch live and at home event
  • A global sport feeling (Belarus (W) and Iran (M) got medals!)
  • Huge social media buzz

2018 was very special for Indoor as it was the year where European and World Cup were held just within some weeks distance, the first in January at the Belgian city of Antwerp and the latest, just some weeks after, in Berlin, Germany.

This was the year where everyone got hyped about Indoor, where the benefits of the game, it’s spectacularity and it’s globalisation opportunities become too loud to be unnoticed. (Before this World Cup there were some rumours about the possibility of Berlin being the last edition.)

I am, since I remember, a big supporter of Indoor hockey for what can represent as an important educational background for hockey players as you can read here. For a long time I advocate the benefits of playing Indoor.

Is it a coincidence that world class players like Tobias Hauke, Benjamin Stanzl, Christopher Ruhr, Moritz Fuerste are all outstanding and primarily indoor players? Moreover, regarding more or less indoor background there are certain characteristics in the ball carrying and passing abilities of other players like Arthur van Doren, Jorrit Croon, Jamie Dwyer or Robert van der Horst that are typically indoor.

With the previous said, I am not affirming that indoor is the only way to educate or improve players, but it is certainly a very good tool.

Photo credits: EuroHockey / WorldSportsPics

Berlin’s World Cup, aside of displaying fantastic matches gave us strong indicators that shouldn’t be ignored when we perspective the future of not only indoor itself but also of its existence as a complementary and fundamental tool for the sustainability of promotion of the big ‘brother’: Field Hockey.

We need to simplify and standardise. We change too much, too fast and we becomes too noisy. My proposal is to keep our beloved 11×11 Field Hockey but to use Hockey 6’s (indoor and outdoor) as the unique officially recognised modality of Field Hockey.
Indoor is educational, promotional and global so I strongly believe we should use it to support the hockey game and brand worldwide.

We have an amazing sport, outstanding professionals, talented and smart athletes but a solid and sustainable game based on a better daily/weekly experience will make the ‘hockey brand’ prosper and not the other way around.

Bernardo Fernandes


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