Posts filed under ‘Hockey’

Referral System Worth Copying?

Having just returned from the Hockey India League in India where teams were allowed one referral to a video umpire per game, which if they were correct in their assessment of a situation they kept to use again, but lost if the video umpire was wrong, one had to ask whether or not football could adopt a similar system.

Hockey’s system is currently not flawless, and one feels that the games governing body has overcomplicated the system by making the players request a specific offence.

Having watched La Liga in the evening following an HIL game, there was one game where an attacking player was clearly offside, the referee’s assistant missed it, so too did the referee. The defender widest, and in the best position raised his arm in appeal immediately. The goal stood.

Had football had the same approach as hockey, the player could have given the signal for a referral to the referee. The game was already stopped and the referee could have conferred with his video official with a simple question, ” Is there any reason why I should not award a goal” or “X team are claiming number 10 was offside, I felt he was not can you check and confirm whether the goal should stand.”

Similarly if as in the World Cup in South Africa England believed Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany had crossed the line they could have asked for a referral.

If of course the video referee deems the ball did not cross the line in that case when play has been stopped to view the footage, a drop ball would take place level with the penalty area. In hockey they have a bully-off.

There will be people who claim that this stops the flow of the game. It does but only momentarily. Hockey moves at a much faster pace than football yet the referral system has not harmed the game; only some of the interpretations have!

Football has increased in pace, referee’s and their assistant’s will make mistakes, but this way they have the opportunity to correct them. It may in fact build the drama in a stadium rather than slow the game down. For teams fighting relegation, or to qualify for Europe or to win the League this could be the difference between success and failure. Too often we have seen teams lose vital points because of what appears a blatant mistake. In England’s case they went out of the World Cup; although were they really good enough to beat Germany?

Sepp Blatter has said if such systems are to come into football they should be at all levels of the game, but this is not at all levels of hockey and yet it works. It is also an ideal opportunity to educate viewers as to the rules, and let us be honest how many viewers really do understand the current offside rule?

Surely it has to be worth considering? How knows maybe a new head of FIFA will be more open-minded.

March 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Hockey India League At A Roundabout Rather Than A Crossroads.

The bi-lateral agreement signed yesterday between Hockey Australia and Hockey India is good news for the Hockey India League, as it guarantees Australia’s top players will be free to participate in the competition for the next three years.

The league benefits Hockey Australia as its top players have the opportunity to earn a decent wage from the Hockey India League, which enables them to dedicate more time to the sport and focus on keeping Australia the number one team in the World. If the players were left to survive on their AIS funding they would find that the time spent focussing on the game would be severely restricted, as they would be forced to generate income in order to live day to day in Australia’s most expensive city, Perth.

This agreement is good news for Hockey India, but there is still a great deal to be done to keep the momentum of the competition moving in the right direction. This year has seen the standard of hockey lift to a new level, but despite the success on the pitch cracks are appearing off of it.

Crowds at games and viewing figures on Star Sports have been down; the reason, many believe, including the players and Franchise owners, is that Hockey India has failed to market the League adequately. There was next to no promotion leading into the tournament and most promotion was left to the Franchise owners who had already spent heavily buying a team and then bidding on the top players in the world and in India to be competitive.

Newspaper coverage leading into the tournament was hard to find; partly because the cricket World Cup was about to start and with India the defending Champions, many were focussed on their defending the title. This should have been foreseen and Hockey India should have either brought on board one of the newspapers as a sponsor/media partner, or bought editorial space to ensure coverage.

Marketing and promotion aside, the biggest challenge facing Hockey India and the Hockey India League in 2016 is that it will be an Olympic year. Speaking to overseas players participating in the tournament many have said that they fear their national association will not allow them to  head to India for five weeks in an Olympic year. One of the main reasons being that during that five week period their fitness levels drop off, as much time is spent travelling between cities prior to the team’s next game. In an Olympic year, teams cannot afford their top players fitness levels to dip.

A suggestion put forward by some of the players likely to be playing in the Olympic Games is that in an Olympic year Hockey India should run the Hockey India League like an international tournament. Meaning that the event be held in one city. It also should be played over a shorter period of time, – say a fortnight – with games coming thick and fast and on a daily basis. Players believe if this were done they would be free to play as their fitness levels would be maintained and they would not be away for an extended period of time. Hockey India needs to talk to a quorum of the top players from the 13 nations represented and sound out a consensus of opinion to ensure that next year the standard of 2015 is maintained.

In the long term they have to look at where each of the Franchises are currently based. Delhi, despite winning the League last year is not a hotbed for hockey, the team plays in a stadium that locals say is hard to get to with no parking available, and crowds have been poor. Mumbai have finished last for the second time in three years despite a new regime running a new Franchise; they were second last in 2014 by just a point. In fact in 32 HIL games the Mumbai franchise has won just four games!

There is an argument, and it is a strong one, that these two major cities in India should not have Franchises. There is talk of expansion with teams coming in from traditional hockey regions, such as Pune, a few hours from Mumbai, Bhopal and Bangalore. Many Hockey fans in India believe that these teams must come in as they will be well supported as Hockey is strong and has a great deal of tradition in these areas. The question is which team gets dropped, Mumbai or Delhi? Hockey India may not agree with such a statement but one of the two has to go if the League is to see the games played in packed stadia, which will in turn lift the atmosphere on television.

The bi-lateral agreement with Australia is crucial to the League’s future as there are more Australians, World Champions, playing in the league than any other nationality. The key thing will be the negotiations with the other top nations in the coming months and listening to their concerns and finding a format that suits all concerned.

After a wonderful tournament in 2015, it would be a shame to see the league take a step backwards in 2016. It would be a blow to the resurgence of Indian Hockey and ultimately a blow to the game worldwide.

February 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Van Ass Under the Microscope

They say to be successful in sport or business one must a long term vision and plan. Those heading Hockey India have a plan to lift India back into the top echelons of world hockey, but it would appear that they are not taking the most direct route.

The appointment of former Netherlands coach Paul van Ass as the new national head coach has many baffled. Van Ass has a reputation as a great motivator, an attribute on which his success at HC Bloemendaal and with the national team was based. The question is whether India is at the stage where they need a motivator, or whether this form of coach is premature.

There is no doubt the Hero Hockey India League has helped in the progression of India’s young talent and prepared many for making the step up to play at international level. They have been exposed to international players and coaches and learned new techniques and styles of play. The trouble is for many once the HHIL ends no one is there to continue that development. Players return to their India clubs and many no longer focus on the skills that they were honing with their HIL sides until the next year.

Former Head Coach Terry Walsh and his predecessor Michael Nobbs both highlighted that when Indian players came into the national camps unlike countries such as Australia and the Netherlands they had to spend time coaching technique and body positions when defending and attacking; things that players in many other nations have already perfected before they make it into a national camp.

Walsh worked wonders in a year and India recorded some of its best results at international level for many years, Silver at the Commonwealth Games, fourth place at the Champions Trophy and Gold at the Asian Games an event India had not won since 1998. India also won a test series in Australia, and was the first team to win three games in a ow against Australia for a number of years. The junior team also became the first to win back to back Sultan of Johor Cups. As a result Walsh’s departure in November last year mystified many. It appeared that India were on the right track and had a coach who was bringing the best out of his players and developing them into a competitive international side.

Walsh’s departure was controversial, but that is nothing new for Indian Hockey, so too were the departures of Nobbs, Jose Brasa, Ric Charlesworth and Gerard Rach.

Van Ass has had success as a coach at every level he has coached but is he what India needs? Is he a coach that can raise India’s skill level and technical ability? Time will determine that. Will he try and instil a more defensive style of play to India’s game, one that goes against the grain of their natural impulses? Again we will have to wait and see.

One thing that many hope is he can continue the progress that was made by Walsh, and he and High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans can set up a system whereby those playing in the HHIL and those in the levels below are having their game continually developed. World Hockey needs India in the top five.

Another thing that those who love hockey in India wish for, but know is unlikely to happen, is that there will be some stability in terms of the head coach holding the position for a longer period than has been the trend in the past.

One thing that is sure is Walsh has raised the bar of expectation and Van Ass is going to have deliver. HIs success in the past will mean nothing unless he can bring success to India, and lay the foundations for ongoing success

January 31, 2015 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

Hockey India League Proving Its Worth

According to five time World Player of the year, Jamie Dwyer,  2015 is the time for the the Hockey India League ‘to thrive rather than survive,’ and the way the tournament has started he may well be bang on the money.

Despite a break in activity for many of the international players leading into this year’s tournament, all have come to India looking fit and committed, which is a credit to them all. All of the players can hold their heads up for what has been achieved in the first two years of the competition.

The premise behind the Hockey India League was to expose young Indian talent to the best players in the world, and have them learn from that interaction, with the hope that Indian Hockey can start the long climb back to the top at international level.

In 2014 Indian Hockey had one of its best years on the International stage. It won Silver at the Commonwealth Games after a 9th place finish at the World Cup. Then came a gold medal at the Asian Games which meant India became the first team to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. India had not won gold since 1998, so this was a huge achievement. Then to round off the year the senior team beat Australia in a test seres in Australia, and finished fourth at the Champions Trophy to the same opponent, while their junior counterparts won the Sultan of Johor Cup becoming the first team to retain the title; most of that side having never been outside of India before the tournament.

The benefits of the Hockey India League are already becoming clear, and they go beyond the Indian players. The money the Australian players earn means that they can dedicate themselves to the task of keeping the Kookaburras as the number one ranked team in the world. Their financial reward for such an achievement pales into insignificance compared to their counterparts in sports such as cricket, rugby, AFL or football. Sadly that is unlikely to change in the near future. Something that mystifies the Indian hockey fans, that a World Champion team is not lauded and given the rewards due to them.

The Hero Hockey India League is crucial to the game on so many levels, and not just to Indian and Australian Hockey. The game itself needs the exposure, and the revolutionary coverage that Star Sports have invested heavily in, in order to make it more appealing to a wider audience. The reality is when India Failed to qualify for the Athens Olympics no television network would pay for the coverage of Hockey. That is why the eight year deal between the FIH and Star is crucial to lifting the game as a whole, just as Kerry Packer’s World Series has proved to be for Cricket.

There are plans for the League to expand in 2016 and if it does it is vital that the Franchises have access to their foreign imports earlier in order to enable them to help market their franchise earlier than ten days before the tournament starts. The Franchisees have invested in their teams and need to be given the best opportunity to see a return on that investment, or like many other Franchise based leagues they will pull out and leave what is proving a hugely successful and high quality competition struggling for credibility.

The future looks bright for what is undoubtedly becoming the best hockey league in the World, but if as Jamie Dwyer has stated it is to thrive all parties must work together for the greater good of the competition.

January 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Gravy Train Going Off The Rails

All sports fans know that sport is big business, but suddenly the business of sport is proving to be one of the things that is strangling the life out of many.

As the administrators in a number of sports look to make money, many are losing sight of the bigger picture, which is that 90% of people who play sport do not do so at anywhere near the elite level. So why is so much emphasis being put on the elite sportsmen and women?

One reason is obvious, elite sportspeople are the ones who drive us to play as children and emulate what they have achieved. That being the case there has to be some balance.

Many will be surprised to hear that many of those elite sportsmen and women who are not in the high profile sports will tell you that they too are feeling the impact of the administrator’s drive to make money off the back of them.

In the past week this writer has spoken to three athletes who have all played at World cups or World Championships in their three different chosen sports, and all three – who for obvious reasons wished to remain anonymous – advised that they were having to fight for money that was owed to them from their sports administrator, had received lower funding now that the Government had given funding grants to the their game’s governing body, or were being asked to pay for things that had always been covered when playing at the highest level. This will no doubt be worrying for many fans around the country.

All without exception felt that money was being held back because the administrators were having to cover salaries and increased operational costs. One was tempted to hand back his scholarship, while another was considering retirement.

There is no doubt that these days sports administrators are being paid extremely good salaries. The CEOs of most of the top sports nationally in Australia demanding over $1million a year. At state level some sports are more generous than others with some CEO’s earning close to or around $200k a year. One state CEO enjoyed a $30k increase when his contract was renewed, despite massive upheaval in that particular sport, this increase alone was bigger than the prize money on offer to the best team in that sport!

The question is can sport afford such salaries amongst its administrators? Where is the money going to come from to support such salaries? In some cases this is abundantly clear, the 90% who are not involved in elite sport are the ones propping them up. Junior clubs are getting stung constantly, with parents expected to continue to shell out more and more money. Yet are they receiving improved coaching, games, and pitches? In most cases the answer is, ‘no.’

Many sports will tell you that they are looking to improve coaching standards, which is great news, but is this improvement coming free? No, the people have to pay once again. Sadly coaching is now becoming elitist in some sports. No longer are you getting the best people coaching. In the past coaches tended to be a man or woman passionate about the game, frequently an athlete whose career was curtailed by injury, or an athlete who did not quite make it to the top of their chosen sport. Yet frequently now these wonderful people cannot afford to pay the fees being asked of them. They cannot justify such a cost to their families, and so they are being lost to their sport. Ex players and athletes who may have no coaching communication skills but who have passed an exam and understand the theory take their place, yet they fail to inspire.

Last week one coach on receiving an award for his achievements in 2014 said in his acceptance speech that “you cannot teach any two athletes the same way, and if you do you are not a coach.” The reason he said was that each individual is different, each is motivated in different ways, each reacts to pressure differently, yet their physical capabilities may be the same. A good coach manages these things, and these are things that cannot be taught. These are things that many of the volunteer mums and dads, who gave up hours coaching young athletes gave, they did not learn these skills in a classroom, they either had them or life taught them. These were people who nurtured talent for the institute of sports to polish. Sadly in the push for money they are now being lost to sport, and in their place are people with the money to gain a qualification, with the aim of making more money.  Coaching at junior level should never be about money, and the day it is sport is in deep trouble.

The sporting landscape is shifting dramatically and money is a major factor. There has been a clear culture shift as one rugby club advised. No longer do players stay behind on a match day and share beers with their mates and the opposition; now they have a gatorade and head home. The same is true in other sports too, but in rugby that was a big part of the brotherhood of the game. The end result for this particular club is a drop in $20k in bar takings for the past season. Now they have to find a way to make up that revenue if they want to continue to pay their players and coaches the going rate as well as stay afloat.

Something has to give, and it would appear that the time when something does is not too far away. It will be a very sad day if clubs have to start to close their doors, as where will the next generation of elite athletes come from. The elite athletes are the ones who encourage children to take up sport, and if these athletes are forced to retire and walk away from their sports because they simply cannot afford to stay in it, the knock on effect will be huge.

Sadly it is not just one sport feeling the pinch, but many. As well as many of our elite athletes. The only way things will change is if the Board’s in charge of the governance of these sports act quickly and re-assess the management structures and the financial remuneration and structures within their sport. If they do not heed the warning signs it could be a case of the administrators strangling the life out of the sport they are meant to be giving life to.

November 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

A Sporting Chance

Last night will be a night that 19 year old Tom Craig will remember for a very long time, as he made is debut for the Kookaburras in the second Test against India in Perth; a game that saw the World number one side lose for the first tim win 2014.

Yet it was not memorable from that perspective for Craig, but more so because he was due to make his debut 24 hours earlier, except only when he was about to be announced in the squad was it realised that he did not have an Australian passport. Despite living in Sydney he was holding a New Zealand passport through his parents. The FIH would therefore not accept his selection and a mad scramble ensued to ensure that an Australian passport was issued so that he could make his much awaited debut 24 hours later.

One has to question why no one had realised until this very late stage that a player identified as a future Kookaburra did not hold an Australian passport. Surely someone would have realised that he would need such a document to play for Australia? The one thing his debut showed is that the Immigration department can move quickly when it has to, or when the right people are pulling the strings, as is believed to have happened in this case.

Interestingly a similar thing happened with a visa player at Perth Glory, with his permanent residency being pushed through before the required qualifying period that most others would have had to endure.

One can’t help thinking of those poor souls who are spending as much as two years in Australian Immigration Detention facilities waiting for their applications to be processed. Maybe they should push their sporting prowess when they lodge their paperwork or bring a hockey stick or cricket bat with them, and then they may find the process expedited.

Should sporting stars be afford such preferential treatment? Should Government ministers or ex members of parliament who have been entertained by various sporting bodies in their time in office be using their influence in such cases? After all it is only a game and not a matter of life and death.

It was great to see the young and talented Craig make his debut at senior level, but the manner in which it was achieved will no doubt upset many. Being just 19 years of age there would also be many who would state time is on his side and that he could easily have waited the normal time it takes to gain an Australian passport, just like the average man on the street.

November 6, 2014 at 8:30 am 3 comments

Sultan of Johor Cup Final Is One to Remember.

Great sporting contests live long in the memory. Great battles where neither side gave an inch, Bjorn Borg v Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1977, Belgium v Russia Mexico 1986, the Ashes Test Headingley 1981, all great contests, all standing out as the years pass by.

Sunday night this writer witnessed another such moment at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia. The final saw the undefeated Great Britain come up against a fast improving India. India had 12 players in their eighteen man squad who had never been outside of their country. Great Britain had ten players from last year’s competition and the Junior World Cupc squad where they played as England. Great Britain were the second oldest team at the tournament, India the second youngest.

The tournament which is the only FIH sanctioned Under 21 event outside or Confederation competitions and the World Cup gives the players of the future a chance to play in front of big and loud crowds, learn to have to back up in competition with games back to back, and also to play in a major tournament. It is a great learning experience.

With players very much in the development phase often the standard of play can suffer with unforced errors often determining the outcome of matches.

Nothing could have been further from what happened in the final. India and Great Britain put on a performance that belied their years and experience in the game. The quality of the hockey on display was truly world class. The errors made by either side were few and far between as each side refused to give an inch. Each stuck to their game plan to the letter; however one could not help feeling that Great Britain pushing their talented Captain Jonathan Gall forward cost them attacking options, as all tournament he and Brendan Creed had been the supply sources for Britain’s attacks.

India scored from their first penalty corner courtesy of Harmanpreet Singh; his goal putting him level with competition top scorer Luke Taylor (GB). Five minutes later Great Britain won their first penalty corner, the unselfish Taylor worked a variation with Sam French who pulled Great Britain level.

The game looked certain to be heading for a shoot out. India launched one last attack, the ball was driven into the circle, it looked as if naught would come from the pass, but Parvinder Singh stabbed his stick at the ball, forcing the Goalkeeper of the tournament Harry Gibson to react and block. the ball spun up off his pads and India had another penalty corner. Harmanpreet stepped forward and beat Gibson. Great Britain had twenty seconds to fight back for a second time, it was never going to happen.

Britain’s players slumped to their haunches, many in tears. The most consistent well drilled team in the tournament had been outplayed in their final game; a game that was a final game for many at Under 21 level. The manner of their defeat will no doubt have sunk in by now, but hopefully they will look back on the part they played in a truly magnificent game, a game worthy of a showpiece final.

India’s young players, smiles spread across their young faces, danced in celebration, the first team to win the Sultan of Johor Cup for a second time having retained their title in dramatic fashion. It seemed as if many could not comprehend what what they had achieved.

This victory was memorable for so many reasons. The hockey was spellbinding from such young players. The discipline shown by both sets of players was top drawer and it really was a privilege to commentate such a game and not be just a spectator.

Hopefully as this young Indian team fly home today their arrival and victory will not be lost in the news that National coach, Australian Terry Walsh has stepped down. These young men and the manner in which they won this trophy will no doubt have given the success starved Indian Hockey fans reasons for hope. Technically they were excellent, they knew when to run with the ball, and when to stop and slow play down as support arrived. They also followed coach Harendra Singh’s tactics perfectly. It would be unfair to single out individuals as this was a true team effort. From the coaches to every single player, they all had a role and a job to do and everyone of them did it perfectly and supported each other.

This was a very special game that deserves to be ranked up there with the best of sporting contests. Once more congratulations and well done to both finalists.

October 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


No Apologies – Football Doco

"No Apologies" is a documentary about two of Australia's Aboriginal Matilda's players and their journey to the Women's Football World Cup.

Buy your copy online here: www.noapologiesrequired.com

NTFS Podcast

Subscribe to the Not the Footy Show podcastListen to Not the Footy Show by Podcast

No Apologies – A football documentary

Categories

Subscribe by email



Powered by FeedBurner

Flickr Photos

Please Sir Can I have my Ball Back?

"Please Sir Can I Have My Ball Back" is a book every man should read. Buy your copy online: eBay

%d bloggers like this: