Dutch are show­ing the way for­ward

The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE | COMMENT - ROD GIL­MOUR

Awin­ter break, matches start­ing at spo­radic times, play­ers miss­ing for in­ter­na­tional duty. These have been just some of the is­sues af­fect­ing the pro­file of Premier Divi­sion and Na­tional League hockey across the men’s and women’s spec­trum for years.

The Hockey Pa­per has al­ready re­ported on how the do­mes­tic struc­ture out­look might look from 2019 thanks to world hockey’s new events port­fo­lio, but news that the cal­en­dar may in­deed be re­jigged to ac­com­mo­date this is to be wel­comed.

How this will be laid out is yet to be known, but if Eng­land is to host events in the Jan­uary to June world cal­en­dar, then an Au­gust-De­cem­ber do­mes­tic cal­en­dar can’t be ruled out.

This would work on many fronts, in­clud­ing reg­u­lar broad­cast­ing con­tracts and all matches start­ing at, say, 2pm. It’s how the Dutch model works. Fans know the push back times and even with live matches, grounds are filled out to watch their heroes. THE vic­to­ri­ous GB women’s hockey team made their ap­pear­ance on stage late on at the BBC’s Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year on Sun­day.

By this time, Le­ices­ter City’s Jamie Vardy – who formed part of the Team of the Year award – was seen on TV look­ing at his watch with team-mates.

Han­nah Macleod then tweeted that she had yet to spot a foot­baller smile “but I’m sure deep down they were proud with the ac­co­lade”.

No awards for hockey, but a year to savour – with dig­nity, pride and beam­ing smiles. THEY were re­garded as the most ex­pe­ri­enced and bal­anced team in the men’s Ju­nior World Cup, but In­dia’s ti­tle win over Bel­gium, an­other emerg­ing force, goes deeper than just lift­ing their first tro­phy since 2001.

There seems to have been a togetherness about this team, one lack­ing at both ju­nior and se­nior level in re­cent years. Seven mem­bers of the ju­nior team, in­clud­ing cap­tain Har­jeet, are ap­par­ently sons of driv­ers. Tellingly, most have also played in the last three edi­tions of the Hockey In­dia League. Eng­land’s play­ers, of course, haven’t played as many pres­sure matches against such global com­pe­ti­tion.

Mean­while, In­dia’s JWC win added to their vic­to­ries at the Ju­nior Asia Cup and the re­cent four-na­tion tour­na­ment in Va­len­cia. The fu­ture – as well as the fan­base – burns bright in In­dia.

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