Hannah Martin is the new kid on the block for England and Great Britain. The midfielder has been gaining plaudits for her silky skills and speed of thought and movement on the pitch and, with the Hockey Champions Trophy just a few short weeks away, she will be hoping to be part of the squad that travels to Changzhou in China to compete against some of the best players in the world.
For Martin however, the thought of FIH Pro League home matches are the exciting development on the horizon for 2019 and are a sign of how the public in Great Britain are getting behind the men’s and women’s hockey teams.
“The atmosphere in London [for the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018] was absolutely incredible, we could not have asked for more. Looking to our home Pro League fixtures, I hope that similar atmospheres can be reproduced.
“Given that there has been a huge number of applications for tickets, more than 100,000, it looks like this is very possible. It is amazing that the profile of women’s hockey has risen so much since the Great Britain women’s 2016 Rio Olympic Games success, and this interest is something we as a squad would love to retain. Our vision includes the phrase ‘inspire the future’, which we believe is absolutely fundamental, and I hope these home fixtures will provide more exposure for our sport in the UK.”
The players are aware, as they prepare for the inaugural FIH Pro League season, that the hockey calendar will look very different in the future. As Martin says: “It is a change to what we have been used to. We will be playing one-off games, instead of a tournament format. But, it is a challenge I look forward to, and considering it is a route for Olympic Qualification, each match played will be a must win.”
Martin currently has 35 caps for England and a further four for Great Britain. The advent of the FIH Pro League will provide many more, regular international fixtures as each of the nine teams in the competition will play home and away fixtures in a six month period.
“It is an opportunity to play frequent international matches, as well as gain more experience against top sides,” says Martin. “Also, since it is clearer structure than before people are more likely to engage with the whole concept.
“Hopefully, if it receives the necessary coverage, hockey as a sport will grow globally as a result.”
Of course, there will be inevitable drawbacks to such a monumental change to the international hockey scene. In the UK, club sides will be hit as the international players will have more national team commitments. There is also a lot of travelling, as Martin points out, not just for the players and staff but for supporters too. For the Martin family the amount of travelling may be more than most, with brother Harry a stalwart of the men’s England and Great Britain squad.
Despite the challenges that the new competition throws up, it is also an opportunity that the 24-year-old is relishing. “I’m very much looking forward to it. I hope that it will facilitate a greater interest in hockey, and since I am lucky enough to play the sport I love as a job, I will certainly relish the opportunity to perform on the global stage both regularly & competitively.”
Great Britain women begin their FIH Pro league campaign on 8 February 2019 with a match against New Zealand, in Christchurch. The Great Britain men's team will be playing at the same venue on the same day, making this a great day out for hockey fans in New Zealand.
For further information and a full playing schedule for the inaugural FIH Pro League, click here.