The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has chosen Pakistan Men’s National Team to be one of nine participants in the Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League, which is due to begin in January 2019. The announcement was made in a live televised event, streamed globally on the FIH YouTube channel from Lausanne, Switzerland on Sunday morning.
The Hockey Pro League is the elite annual competition in field hockey featuring the top nine male nations playing each other once at home and once away across a total of 144 one-off matches (72 each for men and women) in a regular season stretching from January through June. The top four nations will compete in playoffs to determine the champion. The nine inaugural participants in the league will be guaranteed to remain in the league for four years. Each team will play eight home games and eight away games in a double round-robin format, culminating in a grand finale at the end of the four year period between the top four teams. Matches would be played over weekends from January to June.
The main objectives of the new FIH event (Hockey Pro League) are –
- To generate a massive change in TV and media coverage for hockey
- To create big, bold, packed and loud events
- This new competition will fuel the growth of hockey, significantly increasing revenues
What’s the Selection Criteria
The team announcement follows an extremely competitive candidate evaluation process. Following an extensive application process where the top-16 world ranked teams completed questionnaires based on aspects of hosting and participation capabilities, Pakistan was selected alongside Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England/Great Britain, Germany, India, Netherlands and New Zealand to participate in the FIH Hockey Pro League. Teams that did not make the final selection for the men’s League were Ireland, Malaysia and Spain.
Justifying Pakistan’s selection
Several Irish, Spanish and Malaysian fans were crying over the selection of Pakistan and questioning how Pakistan team is selected as it is 13th ranked, while all the other selected teams are in top eight. Yes, it’s true that Pakistan is ranked below Ireland and Spain but Pakistan is given preference over them because crucial aspects about financial sustainability, commercial vision, legal compliance, proposed venues, event delivery and presentation were assessed. The confirmation of teams follows approval from the FIH Executive Board. Their decision was based on recommendations from the FIH Event Portfolio Implementation Panel (EPIP) who were tasked with assessing each of the candidate applications against defined participation criteria that included financial sustainability, marketing strategies, team performance history and prior event hosting experience. While on the other hand Irish Hockey withdraws from Hockey Pro League as they don’t have suitable venues to host the matches. Due to these valid reasons Pakistan team is given preference.
Pakistan will play each opponent once at home, and will travel and play once in each country. League points will be awarded with the top four nations progressing to playoffs. The FIH have stated that Pakistan will play their home matches in Scotland as they are unable to play matches in the nation, with ongoing security concerns due to the threat of terrorism. PHF intend to host the majority of home games at Glasgow National Hockey Centre, Scotland.
Return of Pakistan in global hockey mainstream
After a spell where Pakistan team failed to qualify for Rio Olympics and World Cup 2014, Pakistan team is in rebuilding stage and has high hopes of returning to former glories. Participation of Pakistan team in such kind of events is crucial to maintain connections at the highest level. I expect this new league benefits the popularity of hockey in country as our team in this concept throughout the year playing against different opponents. This makes hockey more attractive to youngsters, sports fans and TV viewers.
One important aspect of hockey pro league is that India and Pakistan men’s teams would face-off on a consistent basis, at least on the hockey field.
For the next six months FIH will be working on the detailed design of the Pro Hockey League and the league schedule. It is still unknown whether and how does the new international playing calendar for the league will be developed