Hockey World Cup 2018: Wisdom, finally, dawns on hockey’s governing body!

 Hockey World Cup 2018: Wisdom, finally, dawns on hockey’s governing body!

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Two years of futile search for title sponsors for the proposed global elite nations’ league has brought wisdom to the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

The FIH events will henceforth not have any title sponsors. The decision to this effect was endorsed by the FIH Executive Board meeting on Friday in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha state that not only bailed the FIH out with title sponsorship for this World Cup, but laid out the red carpet for the entire world’s hockey fraternity appreciating the city’s involvement in the sport’s big moment.

The Indian hockey team will not play in the FIH . AFP

The Indian hockey team will not play in the FIH Pro League. AFP

The World Cup sponsorships were never a big problem for the host nations, or the international federation. Notwithstanding some nations that could bring in a host of sponsors for international tournaments, the FIH’s commercial teams were unable to break the vertical divide when it came to an international brand existing across five continents.

The FIH has failed to evoke even the semblance of interest from global enterprises to back its FIH Pro League, featuring nine nations among men and women in home-and-away games for the first six months of the year.

The composition of the nations picked for the event being spread across five continents, the absence of hockey’s commercial powerhouse India, the problems with Pakistan finding a “home” venue for their games and hockey’s fragile commercial structure in several of the participating nations spiked all efforts of the FIH to find a global sponsor for the FIH Pro League, which is to make its debut in 2019.

That the FIH Pro League is going to massively disrupt the domestic leagues in most of the participating nations has also not been good publicity and several local sponsors are quite unhappy with this intrusion into their existing contracts.

Going for local partners — who should be willing to back their own national teams in all home games, and some even for overseas games — the FIH is now having to work hard and go the extra mile. It is a hit-and-trial method with the professed aim of expanding the sponsors’ pool. Don’t be surprised if the FIH tweaks the commercial terms several times after the FIH Pro League gets underway.

For now, taking a leaf out of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) book, the FIH has decided not to have title sponsors for any tournament in future.

“We’ve decided not to sell a global title sponsorship any longer,” says FIH’s Chief Executive Thierry Weil. “We’ll sell partnerships, instead.”

At a single instance, it is an expression of authority that title sponsorship was not worth it and also the acceptance of the FIH marketing folks failing to sell the game’s attraction to global enterprises.

On the commercial success, or failure, of the FIH Pro League rests the future course of international hockey, all the eggs having been put in one basket and some of the traditional events being dumped — including the once-elite Champions Trophy.

The FIH’s other grand decision is that they will not have a global television partner, indicating that the ongoing contract of Star TV will come to an end after this World Cup.

Is this event also made out of necessity? Was there a television contract on offer at all, or was this decision too taken out of necessity!

The FIH will not answer this question, but has decided to go around the world to sign local television partners. It involves logging a lot of air miles and working up a sweat, something the game could benefit from if they are able to spread the sport’s reach to new territories. But for now, fans in even a few of the participant countries are continuing to find innovative ways to see the telecast.

Wanting to flex its muscles, the FIH also wants to underscore that it is the game’s governing body. Is that the dawn of a new era?

The FIH is seeking some sort of discipline among venues that bid for events and then continue dithering about the tournament schedule; thereby leaving the participating nations wondering. Eventually, the event gets staged on dates quite different from when they were actually scheduled.

With the FIH Pro League leaving little scope for any dithering on dates, the FIH Executive Board has decided that the four-year calendar will henceforth not be tampered with. It seems, some penalty clauses may be needed to be incorporated if the member associations bidding for tournaments are to be made to toe the FIH line on this.

By the way, the FIH CEO told a media conference on Saturday that the Executive Board had decided to stage the Junior World Cup every two years.

The last Junior World Cup having been played in 2016, when would the next edition be? “Err, let me come back to you on this,” added the Chief Executive.

For the full Hockey World Cup 2018 schedule, click here

For all the results from the Hockey World Cup 2018, click here

For the Hockey World Cup 2018 standings, click here

To read stories from our Hockey World Cup memories series, click here

To read legends' take on Indian hockey team's performances at the World Cup, click here

To read stories from The Hockey Insider series, click here

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Updated Date: Dec 15, 2018 23:06:23 IST