An answer from Thierry Weil

the end of hockeyLast week I published some thoughts that struck a chord in the world of hockey. My piece on “The end of hockey” got lots of reactions, support and feedback. Some in public, some in private. Some from hockey people, some from media and some from (FIH) administrators in our game of hockey. Including feedback from our newest CEO, former FIFA marketing director, Thierry Weil and by now some 100 days in his new job at the FIH. He called in to discuss the article and as many others expressed his agreement with most of what was said. I do not consider myself to be a real journalist, so I don’t do interview style articles. I write opinion pieces. But I will quote some of what Thierry Weil said when we discussed my previous opinion piece. That way he got his say in here as well, which seems only fair 😉

We did not discuss most of the hot topics, saving these for a later moment and a face-to-face talk. So no big news here today about the HPL, the priorities of FIH president dr. Batra, the balance between domestic and international hockey, the future of 11v11 or Hockey5’s at the Games, the importance of the World Cup vs the Olympics, nor a discussion of who comes first : players, fans, viewers or followers really… But we did talk about the mission of the FIH!

FIH mission

Weil said he agreed with my quote of “International associations and  federations such as the FIH exist to promote the sport, not to make money!”:

The first thing I said when I came to the FIH is: Whatever we do commercially, the money will have to be injected into development of hockey.

Development will always be at the heart of whatever we do. So with your quote on international federations such as the FIH exist to promote the sport… I 300% agree with you. We are working on a full development plan. (…) You can have the best topsport federation, but without the foundation of grassroots hockey it means nothing. My passion is working with kids, bringing joy to them with a sport that is education for life.
Weil agreed with my previous assessment the true mission of the FIH might not have been very clear from what we can find on their website, nor from recent interviews. He agreed the 4 major points of the “Hockey Revolution” strategy mentioned on their website only serve the one major important task : making hockey grow all over the world:
The one big part that we (FIH) have forgotten on the 4-5 major points in our strategy, is the development part. We will change this… the part of development will be on the top of everything. We are doing a lot already but this needs to be better communicated.
So we’ll keep an eye on this. Within a reasonable time we should see a rephrased mission statement there 😉 But as he rightfully said… It is way more important to execute the plan, to do what is needed than to make beautiful plans or mission statements. One can only agree, so we will follow up on what is really being done as well. Will hockey grow in all aspects of the game and all over the world because of what FIH and it’s affiliated associations are doing?

Football vs hockey

He went on about how he discovered our sport, coming from another world. Football is also a teamsport but there are lots of differences between football and hockey, so there was a lot to discover for him in his first 100 days on the job. A lot of the managerial part of his job is similar to other sports obviously, but he was surprised when he really got immersed in our game of hockey at the Champions Trophy in Breda earlier this month. Weil was impressed by the enthusiasm of the Dutch volunteers making this event a true hockey party once more but especially also by what he saw on the pitch:
Football quotes about fair play. But the sport that has real fair play is hockey. We, in the world of hockey, consider this normal. But it is not. I have been sitting in Breda watching the Champions Trophy and I was saying “Wow!”. Other sports might have badges of fair play and respect on the sleeves of their jersey. But hockey is about real fair play and real respect!

We need more resources, more money

But he’s not denying, nor should he, that he is a commercial guy and making more money is an important part of his task at the FIH:
The revenues we generate are all to go into development, nothing else! We have no other mission! My goal is to promote hockey around the world, in Africa and bring hockey and joy to the kids and having this kind of education you guys have in your sport and sharing this with them. We need to bring more people from the outside to the game of hockey and bring them the values of our game. But you wil not be able to do this without resources. So yes, I want to generate a bit more money to re-inject this into hockey.
So going into the weekend, enjoy the final games of the world cup of football this weekend before we start the real thing with the upcoming World cup for women in London and later this year the World cup for men in India.
And I repeat my final message of the previous article about “The end of hockey” : Let’s hope I’m wrong… Let’s hope they prove (!) me wrong 😉