The Hockey Revolution has begun! And because I consider myself a typical product of European hockey culture I’m torn between tradition and innovation. Afraid to see our beloved traditional club culture diminish and at the same time excited to see new possibilities for the game I love. But… as Julius Caesar would say “Alea iacta est” or the dice have been cast. And this Hockey Revolution will be a case of move forward or get left behind… whether you like it or not!
A short note on facebook and two columns on this blog recently also touch the subject: “Sport or Entertainment” and “Money Time for hockey“. I’m expressing my concerns regarding the future of my sport in those. I love the innovation so typical for our sport, not afraid to make changes to improve on the game. But I also love the tradition of our game in these parts of the world based upon a strong club tradition where family & friends meet sport and our clubs are the “villages” we need to raise our children… However I’ve come to realise maybe I’ve been immersed too much in tophockey these last years and forgot although it is a real motor in creating enthusiasm within our clubs, it is not everything that makes our sport and our clubs… So maybe I should worry a little bit less about the choices being made for international tophockey and trust our hockey family will find a new balance between these new international challenges and the grassroots traditions that make up our club hockey.
Yes, the Hockey Revolution as preached by the FIH will change our national club competitions. Yes, it will take some time and creative thinking to find a new balance between the needs of tophockey versus the needs of our clubhockey. But our hockey family has proven to be resourceful and innovative, so I should trust we will find that balance our sport needs. However the phrase “we have always done it like this before” is killing for progress in all environments, in sport, business and life. So we should not be guided by those who prefer to keep it like it was. But look to those who will find the way to incorporate the new realities the international federation will impose upon us.
Hockey is a global sport
Because our sport is a global sport, played on all continents. And we should know and accept that other regions in the world have different needs. Let’s not “close our borders” but welcome change and find what could be the way it could improve on what we had….
We know most countries do not know our club life. Sports is organised differently in America, in Asia, Africa and Oceania who do not have the same club culture we do. In order for hockey to remain an Olympic sport, in order for hockey to grow – because not growing will lead to extinction – we need to accept change. Today’s reality is sports need to “up” the entertainment factor of their game in order to remain attractive for media, sponsors and new generations with a lot more options to choose from than back in the days… So we should look adapt or die!
The facts of life are hockey has to compete in Europe with the likes of football, or in America with the NBA, NFL of Major League Baseball. Tough competition to say the least… So then we have India. A country where we compete with cricket, but hockey has a chance to become a true challenger sport in market where it can reach millions of fans. This is a much bigger challenge in these parts of the world. So that is why we now have an Indian president running the show at the FIH. When in the seventies of the previous century it was them who had difficulties adapting to the changes forced upon them by the European front. Changes for the good of the game, but difficult (and still difficult) to manage in those parts of the world. These next few years, we in Europe will have to adapt to some changes to our sport that will be directed by India…. or face extinction.
So there it is… our hockey will change! Let’s find the way where our top hockey in Europe remains in sync with the international needs of the game and our local, recreational hockey still offers us the values that come with our club tradition and we all cherish. It is possible, but might need some creative thinking . Some experimenting, some falling down and getting up in these next few years…
But we should all know it never pays to fight the battle to remain the same and it always pays to see the changes coming up as opportunities rather than threats. So I wish all hockey administrators all over Europe all the best in coming up with the way to reconcile the needs of international top hockey with our grassroots club hockey.
It will be a big challenge…