Pakistan is out of the FIH Pro League! Against better judgement, I guess we were all still hoping the former giants of Asian hockey would rise again. But the game has moved on since last century. Even though the players are mostly still amateurs or semi-pro at best, even at the international top level. As a sports federation, national or international, it has become inconceivable to continue with volunteers, amateurs and sometimes unfortunately even still charlatans running the show.

Both India and Pakistan withdrew from the FIH Pro League

Following the FIH congress I wrote a piece on all announcements made at this bi-annual event in a piece entitled “The proof of the pudding is in the eating“. One of the topics I addressed in this was my concern about the power shift within FIH from Europe to Asia. Several people took offence. Mostly because they never read beyond the first lines and quickly jumped to the conclusion I must a be a racist instead of trying to understand my reasoning.

I’ll avoid the “dr. Batra” issues which have been talked about sufficient before. But in the above mentioned opinion piece I said I was worried the Belgian president Coudron got replaced in the FIH executive board by the Pakistani president Shahbaz. It did not have anything to do with race or origin. My worry came from the lack of added value Pakistan had contributed to the sport of hockey for many decades now.

It’s clear what Belgium under the guidance of Coudron has contributed these last years. The sport is growing exponentially within the country. Belgium has a perfect gender balance within hockey. Belgium has got live top hockey on TV every week. Sponsors are joining the federation and clubs for multiple year contracts. Belgium has organised major international events. All of these efforts and accomplishments accumulated in a world cup title and first place in the global ranking last month for their men. And their women are on the right track as well. Why? Because Belgium has a plan, vision and made it work…

Pakistan has no domestic competitive nor recreational organised hockey worth mentioning. Pakistan does not live up to international hockey standards when it comes to gender balance. Pakistan is not bringing media or sponsors to the table. It’s clear there is a total lack of vision, planning and organisation within the PHF to take on the difficult challenges specific for their country. Honestly, I fully understand the country has other priorities for now. But can anyone tell me what Shahbaz brought to the table to get elected to the FIH?

FIH Pro LeagueThe only reason Pakistan was accepted in the FIH Pro League was because Star Sports, the media partner for FIH from India, demanded this. Star Sports knew games between India and Pakistan would mean millions of extra local TV viewers. But then because of political power struggles India withdrew from the Pro League before it even started, followed by Star Sports and suddenly FIH was stuck with Pakistan. Without a plan, without organisation it was in the cards Pakistan would not be able to participate and now the axe has fallen. Pakistan is out…

And we’re still waiting for the results of the internal FIH investigation, asked for by the members of the FIH commission dealing with the Pro League themselves, about how Pakistan got chosen for the Pro League as well. It was launched in March 2018 but I guess that got swept under the rug. Read more about this mess here.

I am very sorry for those in Pakistan who mean well for hockey. I respect their efforts and their love for the game. But this shows why I was and am worried… Plus it means another Asian country, Malaysia for example, could have been participating using the PL to grow the game in their region. It’s a mess!

Very unfortunate the way both Hockey India and the PHF have been playing the FIH in the lead up to the Pro League. It’s time for the FIH to demand those who want in, to get their shit together before (!) making commitments. Both in house, as well as in their national associations…

Domestic hockey is the key to succes!

I know I’m looking at all of this through European glasses. But it’s about time the FIH & co learned a valuable lesson from those regions in the world (not just Europe) where we do have our act together.
The lesson is : “If you want to grow hockey in a sustainable way, you start with the foundation: domestic hockey, both recreational and topsport.”