Dear Mr Negre, Dear Mrs Fleuren,
We all love our hockey and are grateful we are a sport that is not stifled by conservatism and power-games by those chosen to guide our sport. The modest reinventing of our game with changes in rules (no more off-side, interchange, self-pass,…) these last years have been very beneficial. The World League taking over from the Champions Trophy & Challenge is also opening up the sport to more countries. The benefits from this will take a couple of years to become visible, but opening up our sport to more countries and helping them to raise the level is a good thing. However we should not forget to take care of the foundation of our sport…at least for us in Europe: the national club competition…
The international calendar is difficult to reconcile with all national calendars, in Europe and elsewhere… But we do believe – and this is probably not really news to you – we would all benefit from a more strictly managed calendar for both international and national competitions. We suggest 4 periods of 3 months each, alternatively concentrating on national club hockey and international hockey for national teams. September – November for (inter)national club championships, December – February for national teams, March – May again for the clubs and June – August again for international hockey. Also the rumors about a global club competition worry us, we do not think this fits into the calendar.
We would like to share our thoughts about this with you…
Basic principles :
- National club competitions with 10 teams, home & away games, play off with semi finals home & away and a 1 game final = 21 games from September-November and March-May
- European club competition EHL: 2 weekends in October, Easter weekend, final weekend in June
- World League for national teams in December, February and June, which should be limited to 3 rounds instead of 4
- Continental championships, World Cup and Olympics in February or July and August for national teams
- Special competition for professional players in India (HIL) : January -early February (4 week tournament)
This means clubs will have the month of August to prepare for the competition, some of the preparation without their international players so at least the last weekend of August should be without international games. The national federations can schedule 9 game weekends for the first round of their competition between September and the end of November, so 9 games in 13 weeks. Should national federations prefer 12 teams in their top division instead of 10, it could still be done with some double weekends.
December will offer national teams the possibility to schedule camps or participate in the first round of the World League. January is also for the national teams to organize their camps but also for the HIL competition, important not only for the development of hockey in their potential biggest market India but also for the stars of the game, to allow these professionals of the game to make some money to get them through the year. February again for the national teams and the second round of the World League as well as for the preparation of the clubs for the second round of their competition.
The club competition resumes in March until the end of May (13 weeks) with 9 games followed by the semi finals of the play off ( home & away games at Saturday & Sunday) and the final weekend with a one-game final. In between the Easter weekend can be used for the EHL. After the national finals the EHL final can be played early June.
The national competition can again be followed by 3 months of international hockey for the national teams with the World League third and final round in June and the continental championships and/or World Cup or Olympics in July and August.
The benefit of strictly adhering to these 4 quarters of 3 months, alternating club hockey and international hockey are obvious… All concerned know what to expect when planning their competition, camps and tournaments and interference between club and international hockey is kept to a minimum. We think all will benefit from such a strict and clear calendar, which could be something like the one below!
Ernst Baart & Jorge Dabanch
P.S. : Example of international calendar starting after World Cup 2014:
|jan||HIL||HIL / WL1||HIL||HIL / WL1||HIL||HIL / WL1||HIL|
|feb||CC / WL1||WL3||CC / WL1||WL3||CC / WL1||WL3|
- WL1 = World League 1 for countries ranked 17 or lower
- WL2 = World League 2 for 24 countries (16 qualified from WL1 & countries ranked 9-16)
- WL3 = World League 3 for 16 countries (8 qualified from WL2 & countries ranked 1-8) and qualifying for either Olympics or World Cup
- WL4 = World League 4 for 8 countries (qualified from WL3)
- HIL = Hockey India League
- CC = Continental Championship (Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, Pan-America), winner qualifying for Olympics or World Cup
- OL = Olympics
- WC = World Cup
About the authors… Ernst Baart has been following international hockey for several years, both as a blogger, a (former) club administrator for a top club in Belgium and a parent of talented hockey players/coaches. Jorge Dabanch is an international coach from Argentina who has worked for top clubs in Argentina, Spain, Holland and Belgium.