The Hockey Paper - - SIMON MASON -

SEpic events such as the suc­cess of the GB women in Rio have had a cat­a­lyst ef­fect – hav­ing your sport seen by nine mil­lion peo­ple on prime­time telly tends to do that – but it all started a long time ago.

When the FIH de­cided to change the rights fees for com­pe­ti­tions and con­trol its own TV out­put, it meant more con­sis­tent cov­er­age, more cam­eras, bet­ter re­plays but in­creased ex­pec­ta­tions.

Video um­pires be­ing in­te­grated into the game re­lied upon the work of sev­eral cam­eras and a di­rec­tor who knew what they were do­ing. There were oc­ca­sion­ally big screens for the crowd to un­der­stand what was go­ing on. Amaz­ing tech­nol­ogy, but which added tens, if not hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds, onto an event bud­get.

But as the game evolved, rules changed and tim­ings were al­tered, the cov­er­age changed to match. Multi-mil­lion-pound in-kind deals with com­pa­nies such as Star Sports and BT Sports have seen more reg­u­lar in­ter­na­tional hockey on TV, com­ple­ment­ing the long-stand­ing cov­er­age of the EHL and what is now five years of the Hockey In­dia League.

We all recog­nise that in our in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal, con­tent-driven, im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion world, ev­ery sport is fight­ing for its place as oth­ers are added to the global sched­ule. It is this plethora of op­tions that causes hockey its prob­lem and why the in­door fi­nals aren’t on TV.

At the be­gin­ning, back at Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity, Sky of­fered one cam­era, broad­cast qual­ity, to cre­ate our hockey mag­a­zine show. Now, two Go-Pros and some wifi can see a match de­liv­ered via live stream to the world and the qual­ity would be bet­ter than those early days. Our ex­pec­ta­tions now are to see touch-screen anal­y­sis at half-time, suited pun­dits and slow-mo­tion re­plays. But un­for­tu­nately that all car­ries a cost.

With lim­ited bud­gets and a full cal­en­dar of in­ter­na­tional events avail­able to them, a pro­ducer such as BT will look at the Eng­land Hockey Su­per 6s and cost it as a three-day project (set-up, pro­duc­tion, break down) for a two-hour show from an out­side broad­cast lo­ca­tion and de­cide it isn’t worth the money!

Should Eng­land Hockey then pay for that cov­er­age at a cost of tens of thou­sands of pounds? I don’t think they should. Such a ven­ture would be funded from club sub­scrip­tion money and that could be bet­ter spent else­where.

In­stead, let’s get creative. Let’s use our do­mes­tic events to cre­ate con­tent for our pas­sion­ate, knowl­edge­able hockey au­di­ence. Let’s stream it with Go-Pros, hand-held cam­eras, get com­ments from our arm­chair ex­perts and sofa-based fans. Let our valu­able part­ners such as BT de­liver as much as they want from the in­ter­na­tional arena, but let’s take back con­trol of our do­mes­tic cov­er­age.

Stream more, cen­tralise the con­tent from clubs on an Eng­land Hockey chan­nel, use clubs who al­ready put things on­line, in­cor­po­rate the Mon­day night hockey pro­gramme from Gal­vanised Me­dia but ex­pand it. Let’s cre­ate a model where ev­ery club knows how to stream hockey. Let’s take hockey to the masses by us­ing the tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­tise avail­able to us.

Get club coaches to voice the first­team high­lights from the week­end. Let’s stop peo­ple watch­ing cats fall­ing off win­dow ledges on YouTube. In­stead, let’s get them watch­ing the cap­tain with goal of the day, or blooper of the month.

By cre­at­ing lo­cal he­roes and, with such an over­whelm­ing block of con­tent, we can not only watch hockey when we like, we can ac­tively en­cour­age pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies to do more. Or Wap­ping can sim­ply chal­lenge them to a pint race.

Take con­trol! The ab­sence of a broad­caster screen­ing the Su­per 6s is an op­por­tu­nity for the hockey com­mu­nity to get creative

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