FEATURE: Hockey CEO speaks out for the need for substantial changes to ensure hockey is a surviving sport

Since the inception of Go Hockey News this editor has been writing about the need to deinstitutionalize traditional ideals and values about hockey and deinstitutionalize new ones that take the global sport of hockey from its amateur status to a semi-professional then professional sport. This is in response to changes that have been made in other global sports to

  • attract new player participants,
  • meet the needs of the modern day spectators in changing game formats and game promotion,
  • attracting traditional media involvement to then attract sponsorship dollars
  • building extraordinary social media networks and IPTV channels where traditional media is not supportive so that there is avenues to attract sponsorship dollars
  • attracting high calibre sport management trained leaders that come with a passion for the sport of hockey and not merely using hockey as a stepping stone to go onto more public supported sports
  • creating accountable communication and operational strategies that flow from the top hierarchy down

The list can go on, you only have to ask those entrenched in leading the sport at grass roots level as to how much evidence they see of what are flowing from the plans and strategies developed at the top in a practical way to grassroots hockey below.

Saying all this it was a blessing to see in ‘black and white’ the thoughts of Hockey Queensland CEO, Louisa Begley. Louisa correctly identifies a number of issues facing hockey and outlined above. So I am urging readers to read this if you have not done before or re read it.  This is Louisa’s report and plea.

Over the past few months there has been various updates released regarding the proposed changes to the Australian Hockey League (AHL). It has been amazing to observe the reactions these updates have created amongst the hockey fraternity and in particular the passion that exists for our sport.  Hockey is going to need this passion to help it navigate its way through the changes needed to be implemented to make sure hockey has a future in this country.

Nationally, participation in hockey is in decline and despite the successes of the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos, hockey does not have a high profile, which means it is very difficult for any level of the sport to attract sponsors or find commercial partners.  Sport in Australia is a highly competitive market and hockey is falling behind the other major sports in its ability to adapt the sport to cater for the demands of a modern society, for example, social competitions, modified rules, mid-week competitions or flexible payment options.  Which makes it more challenging to attract new participants to the game and increase our slice of the sports market.

Hockey Australia’s proposal for AHL this year is the first step in developing a hockey product that will meet the demands of the market for a high-level competition that delivers sports entertainment in a reduced time frame.  The vision is to create a product for hockey that competes with crickets Big Bash, Netball’s National Netball League, Rugby’s Super 7s and AFL’s 9s and a raises the profile of hockey, attracts new people to the game, provides an additional source of revenue and secures a broadcast partner.

The changes being made to the AHL for 2018, allow the sport to trial some of these new innovations so we are ready for the transition into an unknown area for the sport.  12 min quarters are being trialled to allow for the game to meet broadcast requirements and keep the two games in a 3 hour window as recommended for a family audience, the home and away concept is being trialled to give every state an opportunity to host a game and build their “game day” experience, the modifications being proposed for the game aim to build tension and excitement within the audience and develop a real connection with the teams.

No, this is not AHL as we know it.  But it is an opportunity for the sport to put its toe in the water to develop something invigorating and it is only one of a number of strategies being implemented that will address hockey’s declining presence in this country.  What is being proposed is not likely to be the right product and will need to be constantly tweaked over the next few years until it is right, but as a sport we need to take the risk with these ideas as there is a far greater risk to the sport if we don’t. 

What we do need is the hockey fraternity to keep being passionate about the sport, keep providing the feedback needed to get this format right, attend the AHL competition (in Brisbane on the 20th Oct) and encourage everyone to be part of this exciting journey we are all on. 

“REAL HOCKEY.  RE-IMAGINED” is the vision and I invite you all to share in it and shape it 
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​- Lou

My thoughts in response

Louisa has clearly identified and addressed how changes to AHL is part of a necessary change to improve hockey participation numbers because if you do not know it already hockey is under siege especially now that traditional male dominated sports have catered for female participation as well. And guess what they have the money to strip hockey of female participators. But the AHL changes are only part of the picture as she has stated, i.e.,  ….and it is only one of a number of strategies being implemented that will address hockey’s declining presence in this country. 

I am thankful there is truthful communication happening to the masses and this report is a way of drawing the ‘troops’ together in purpose for the future of hockey but much more can be done even with the limited resources at hand.

Let me say that the needed transformation of the sport of hockey was never meant to be easy but is possible. Why? Other sports have done it or doing it. A T.E.A.M. approach (all levels of hockey management) is unquestionably needed and brought on board. Beginning with a shared upon vision, plan and strategies that are known and communicated effectively to all levels of management for further communication to greater, i.e., all hockey people. Then? With this in place action, involve, monitor, evaluate and communicate some more. This is nothing new in what I am saying except that the grassroots hockey participant and supporter needs to go searching to find these ‘change ingredients’ established by FIH, Hockey Australia etc. It is ‘hazy’ in understanding to them and also there is little downward support from higher management provided in implementation of stated strategies through lower levels of management and finally into the psyche of hockey players and supporters.

Yes the big issues need to be addressed top down but there a number of strategies which can be implemented now at club level.  Change solutions can often be an accumulation of a number of smaller steps implemented at club level also whereby there is T.E.A.M. approach (as Louisa says share in it and shape it)  through the addition of both a top down approach and bottom up approach.

An example of top down approach which can result in a bottom up gain is  at club level how can we strategically educate, lead and support a club as it promotes and works to make hockey a ‘family sport’ as a strategy to increase hockey participation where getting new players is an issue. The answer may be through the provision of community hockey promotion strategies and templates, or ensuring successful case studies of clubs increasing hockey participation numbers are shared with all clubs to consider. Or how can the use of current hockey participant databases or clubs and regional associations build social media platforms to communicate other plans and strategies of FIH, Hockey Australia etc. or attract sponsors which are needed funding to further develop regional / club hockey.

One thought on “FEATURE: Hockey CEO speaks out for the need for substantial changes to ensure hockey is a surviving sport

  1. Unless something is done about fees at club level participation will never increase.

    My hockey fees are almost 4 times my cricket fees

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *