CHENNAI : The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is currently working on a number of things. The Pro League — its flagship tournament — is beginning next year. In 2019, the FIH is also planning to take the sport to the hoi polloi by having exhibition hockey 5s tournaments at specific locations. The body’s CEO, Thierry Weil, who is in New Delhi to attend the ongoing FIH Congress, spoke in depth about the above plans to Express. Excerpts:
Grass back in vogue?
The Frenchman revealed that the body could allow certain countries to use grass if it means they can get to experience sport at the global level. To that effect, Weil opined that the 2021 edition of the Hockey Series Open — a meet for the sport’s also rans — could be played on grass. “The idea we are considering is that Hockey Series Open 2021 can be played on any surface, including grass.” Weil will make a mention of this during his address to the gathering on Saturday. Turf, however, will continue the surface of choice at the highest levels including at the World Cup and Olympics.
Pro League & 2019 calendar
On India’s participation: India will be joining the programme from 2021 (both the men’s and women’s sides had signed up for the inaugural edition last year before they withdrew). So India will get a lot of important matches from 2021. It will only be the men’s team for the time being.
On the lack of a title sponsor: It’s an internal decision to not have one. We have about four to five strong sponsors and we have to hope to announce them after the Congress (it’s finishing on Saturday).
On the future calendar: After the Pro League, we will have something called the Hockey Series Finals, which will take place across five or six venues (India is one of the countries which will host it in 2019). The best teams from these tournaments will play in the Olympic qualifiers end of next year.
On it being at the Olympics: Discussions surrounding hockey 5s is not about (its place) in the Olympics to be honest. What we will do is launch it as an exhibition to promote hockey around the world. This will start in 2019. The Olympics will always be XI-a-side. That will never change.
Exhibitions? Bilaterals and multi-team events where national teams will play in tournaments in specific locations. We are doing this to take hockey to the masses. So that means in the centre of cities or locations where people naturally congregate.
On any plans to start outdoor 5-a-side WC: We want to start with exhibition tournaments and see how it will be accepted. If and when it’s doing well, we can look at the feasibility of hosting that (a WC or a World Tour). But it’s not in the plans now.
2018 World Cup
On ticket sales: The information I have is that the sale of tickets looks extremely good at this point in time. Not all tickets have been sold out but I know all the India games are more or less sold out. It will be a record in terms of ticket sales for the men’s World Cup.
Matches not involving India: That always sells a bit later. Quite often these tickets go during the event itself. For instance, fans who come with the teams may get the tickets then and so on.
On any FIFA-style agenda to expand it further: No, not for the time being. Whenever we increase the number of teams, we need to make sure that we have the right level of teams joining in. We first need to do a big job with all the national associations... that’s why the biggest focus from the FIH will now go to the 126 national associations which are not playing in the Pro League.