ehltrophyThe European Hockey League, so it seems, is once again at some kind of cross roads. This years edition, like all others before, was once again played in The Netherlands. At Bloemendaal, the legendary club of players like Floris-Jan Bovelander and Teun de Nooijer. But also one of those clubs thriving on good old fashioned volunteers among their members, able to handle +5000 visiting supporters every day, several days in a row… Veteran players, guys with serious jobs during the week, pulling their parking lot duty, moms of famous (ex)players welcoming visitors, parents of enthusiastic youth players taking care of catering needs and young recreational players guiding the flow of supporters. It adds to the experience of supporters when you get a warm welcome and a smile of someone genuinely happy to help you, not just because it is their job to do so… We saw it during the London Olympics and on a smaller scale at these European club events.

Over the next years however the EHL will be travelling more towards other countries as well, especially since the “owners” of this concept are not Dutch anymore. One of the many challenges for the European Hockey Federation together with it’s commercial partners will be how to get a big and enthusiastic crowd on site in regions with possibly less of a hockey tradition. But possibly even more challenging will be the delicate balance between sport and commercial interests and between innovation and tradition…

In my opinion, through marketers from outside & innovators from within the sport, the EHL has added a lot of value to our game in these last couple of years. However the problem for sports with a smaller fanbase (and sponsors) is to maintain the level of innovation, because growth and improvement are and will remain to be based upon trial and error. Where in the beginning of the EHL it’s marketing partners were creative in finding new ways to visualize our sport, I feel this has diminished these last couple of years. Maybe the new Spanish marketing partners/owners will give this aspect of the game a new boost. Because I think we’re all ready to slow down on innovations in the rules of our games, even maybe get back to some of the previous traditions there. However I think there is still a lot of innovation possible in the way we present our sport, once again improve the way we bring our game to the screens (the last s being a very important one – it is not all about old fashioned one way broadcasting anymore).

innovation-ballSo let’s give our game a breather when it comes down to new rules, maybe turn back some of the latest trials because some of the are clearly errors. And focus our innovation for a couple of years on media and new technologies to add to the engagement and grow our fan base!

Meanwhile a big thanks to this year’s host HC Bloemendaal, the EHL and especially it’s maecenas ABN Amro for the continued belief and support to our game. We hope you guys stick with us…