Thierry Weil, FIH CEO

Field Hockey cannot be commercially successful if the supply is short. Hockey is an example of that. While it does have the World Cups, the Champions Trophy and appearances at Olympics, fans don’t get a regular dose of it to satisfy their hockey lust. Disciplines like cricket, football, rugby tennis and golf, US football have games constantly throughout the year. But in hockey the schedule is limited.

Thierry Weil, FIH CEO

In a bid to address that, among other things, world body FIH in 2019 started its ambitious Pro League, a tournament featuring the top nine nations who played each other on a home-and-away basis. Hockey fans were treated with some high quality hockey right through the year and although they received it quite well without India, the financial gurus, FIH found it hard to market the league. The spring brought great news  (to the money men as well) when India agreed to take up the spot left vacant by Pakistan.

Thierry Weil, CEO of FIH held a press conference with select journalists on Tuesday, welcomed India’s participation and hoped the Pro League builds on its positive start:

“One of the problems hockey faced when we went to a broadcaster was supply. They felt barring the World Cup and Champions Trophy, they had nothing else to show. They wanted something happening regularly and that’s why we devised the Pro League. The top nine nations of the world competing against each other, fans are  assured there’s action all year. Then you have the World Cups and the Olympics. Now we can better sell the product. I believe nothing in life is easy and this is a start we’ve made are quite confident about it.

“For the countries involved also it’s great. They get to play against solid opposition on a regular basis. In the Pro League there are no easy games. Every game is very important. It’s not a friendly like how it used to be earlier.”

Two constraints FIH faced in the inaugural edition was nations complaining about the financial burden owing to the constant travel and European clubs unhappy with the schedule that caused havoc within their leagues. Weil said that this issue has now been addressed.

“We understand some countries found it hard. So we cut the travel into half this time around. There’s a lot more balance this time. Secondly, we understood the concerns from the European clubs. So there’s not much happening in April when league action is the busiest in Europe. The perspective is to have a clear schedule.”

Weil backs WC decision

While Indians rejoiced in FIH granting a second successive World Cup to Bhubaneswar (2023), many felt the sub-continent was getting all major events with others being ignored. Weil defended the decision to have a third World Cup in four editions in India.

“Bhubaneswar hosted a great World Cup last time and the facilities were world-class. If you look at football World Cups, it’s been taken to new markets but the stadiums have been reduced to white elephants. We didn’t want that scenario. Some of the bidders didn’t have World Cup venue and things had to be built from the scratch. Bhubaneswar has everything in place and that was the reason behind us choosing it.”

Notwithstanding the facilities, lets face it the weather will be nice and warm all year.

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