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The FIH Pro League is designed as an entertainment product and is the centrepiece of our New Events Portfolio, kicking off in January 2019 – replacing the Champions’ Trophy and the World League Semi Finals and World League Final. It will provide – for the first time ever – a regular calendar of must-see events played in packed stadia across the world and throughout the year.
Fans and athletes alike will enjoy a new annual global home and away league involving the world’s leading hockey nations. It will culminate in a Grand Final with one nation being crowned Pro League Champions and receiving the single largest financial prize in the sport.
We believe the FIH Pro League will transform the landscape of international hockey because hockey fans the world over will be able to watch their favourite sport for an extended period on the same channel each year. Moreover, those fans whose team is participating have the chance to be part of the noise and sheer excitement of watching their team regularly in their home country.
Our approach will ensure that international teams will play against opponents once at home and once away each year in this league. Following several months of competition, the top four ranked teams will then qualify for a stand-alone Grand Final event, which will determine the winners of the competition. This will be identical for the men’s and women’s leagues.
What are the numbers?
- There will be 9 men’s and 9 women’s teams
- Therefore every team will play 8 home and 8 away matches
- That means there will be 144 FIH Pro League matches altogether (excluding the Grand Final event)
- Matches will be played between January and June each year
- Matches will first be played in the southern hemisphere with the northern hemisphere teams travelling to the Southern hemisphere and the Southern hemisphere teams playing against each other
- Then the matches will move to the northern hemisphere with the southern hemisphere teams travelling to the northern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere teams playing against each other
- In other words, we will follow the sun!
- Each team will stay in the league for a minimum of 4 years
The Grand Final
In addition, so that we can generate maximum excitement and the most fan interest we possibly can - and to build huge media coverage, drive commercial advantage, income generation and all round profile building. We will introduce a Grand Final at which we crown the ultimate winner.
The Grand Final will take place within 2 weeks of the close of the league and will consist of an event involving the top 4 teams (both men’s and women’s) playing together at a pre-determined location.
- Great Britain
- New Zealand
- Great Britain
- New Zealand
The teams we have selected to play in the first FIH Pro League are not simply the ‘best’ 9 national men’s and women’s teams based on traditional world ranking data. Instead, we used a much broader set of criteria as part of our application process.
We set out our participation criteria very transparently, encouraging a range of nations to apply. The aim of the process was to ensure the quality of the League and the highest possible standard of events right from the start.
The criteria were developed around meeting the three main objectives of the new event portfolio: to generate a massive change in TV and media coverage for hockey; create big, bold, packed and loud events and to make a step change in future revenues for the sport.
In December 2016, we sent application documents to the top 16 men’s and women’s hockey nations as listed in the FIH Hero World Rankings. We were clear that the teams would be chosen by a specially selected FIH Event Portfolio Implementation Panel.
National Associations were required to submit extensive information in order to be eligible, with sustainability the key aspect of the Leagues’ long term vision.
Alongside this process, we held extensive discussions with national broadcasters regarding exposure and media coverage of hockey within each of the selected nations. The commitment of national broadcasters is fundamental to the success of the FIH Pro League in promoting the competition and ensuring millions of fans can consume hockey.
We asked for detailed financial modelling, projecting budgets for both the participation in matches overseas as well as hosting matches in their homeland. Details about marketing proposals for promoting the League plus commercial strategies aimed at generating income were required, alongside evidence of financial sustainability.
We also considered which nations could best offer the perfect stage for these teams to shine. With a requirement to host ‘Big, Bold, Packed and Loud’ events in line with the FIH’s 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy, venue selection and experience of hosting previous events was also included amongst the criteria for entry.
There was no bidding fee associated with League participation so nations did not need to worry that selection would simply be offered to the highest bidder.
The deadline for applications was the 30th April 2017 and there was an overwhelming response from NAs wanting to be part of this league.
In all there were 13 Women’s teams vying for 9 spots and 12 Men’s teams competing for their 9 places. It was an incredibly competitive process and gave the panel some hard decisions to make in choosing the teams.
Whilst it has not been easy, we know it’s been a thorough and robust process - assessing applications against the defined criteria:
- Broadcast and Media coverage
- Financial sustainability
- Commercial vision
- Legal compliance
- Proposed venues
- Match Experience and Sports Presentation
- Organisation and personnel
- Marketing strategies
- Motivation and Legacy
- Team performance history
- Previous event hosting
It was clear in the during the application process that nations wanted to consider using a number of different venues in different cities around their country to hold their home matches.
This means that all matches will be being truly accessible to the largest number of fans as practically possible, dependent on appropriate venues. So, while our chosen teams have a home base, the concept of ‘home’ applies equally in any national venue where local fans get the chance to see their home team play ‘live’ and experience the passion, excitement and noise of the FIH Pro League in action.
There is one notable exception: Pakistan’s team in the Men’s League will play all of their home matches in Scotland. This limits the complications that other nations could face travelling to play in Pakistan.
We are delighted that Scotland came forward to act as ‘home host’ to Pakistan and we are confident that there will be benefits to both nations going forward.
For the Pakistan team, there is the consistency of having a home base and the opportunity to attract Scottish hockey fans as well as the almost 50,000 people of Pakistani descent that live in Scotland. There is clearly an excellent opportunity to engage with this community to ensure that their home matches are as Big, Bold, Packed and Loud as any others across the globe.
To find out where each match will take place, view the schedule.
Note that Pakistan’s team in the men’s League will play all of their home matches in Scotland. This limits the complications that other nations could face travelling to play in Pakistan. We are delighted that Scotland came forward to act as ‘home host’ to Pakistan and we are confident that there will be benefits to both nations going forward. For the Pakistan team, there is the consistency of having a home base and the opportunity to attract Scottish hockey fans as well as the almost 50,000 people of Pakistani descent that live in Scotland.
We formed our Event Portfolio Working Group in December 2014 to develop a set of recommendations to put to the Executive Board.
But before we made any decisions or recommendations, we knew it was critical to agree some principles that would ensure we made the right decisions for the right reasons, keeping us on track when it came to the most difficult or issues.
Our Principles were:
- Stand-out events We had to create events that would produce the maximum drama possible and be able to cut through the noise – events that will really get noticed.
- Simple and meaningful The players, fans and our commercial partners needed to understand, engage and get involved with the events as easily and spontaneously as possible.
- A predictable, regular calendar We felt it was essential that everybody involved in hockey should be able to plan ahead and develop new habits – particularly our fans who wanted to see more of the games they love.
- Opportunities to see We wanted fans to be able to see their team playing more often so they can build allegiance to their ‘home team’ and their ‘home players’.
- Focus on rivalries This was about increasing the number of games played between nations “with historical sporting rivalries” – and also ensuring we were playing the quality type of matches that most fans really wanted to see!
From the outset we agreed that every event in our new portfolio had to meet not one, but all of the principles we drew up
Our consultation process…
Never in the history of hockey have we consulted so thoroughly with so many people from different stakeholder groups and different backgrounds in different countries. We held meetings, workshops and conference calls, presenting early drafts and many, many amended drafts – including concepts that were completely discarded along the way.
Three years of research, consultation and development with more than 600 individuals, including athletes, National Associations, Continental Federations, , major broadcasters, the International Olympic Committee, individuals at Continental Federation congresses, officials and umpires, FIH Committee and Panel members and FIH staff.
In addition to this, we invited Deloitte (international specialists in audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management and tax), to provide extensive support in developing the financial modelling for the new portfolio of events.
The FIH Pro League will leverage – and make the most of – one of our most important, powerful and under-used assets: ‘The power of home’
Creating a Home & Away Global League is a hugely significant and exciting step for us to take because:
- It means we can hold far more home matches than ever before
- It’s like taking our most valuable asset and increasing it – overnight – by over 500%
- It means we go from holding 25 home matches to 144
At last we can say – with total conviction – ‘Hockey’s coming Home’! Every match (outside of the Grand Final) played in the FIH Pro League will be a home match.
The reason this so important is that home fixtures provide us with a chance to drive loyalty and passion, to develop those strong allegiances that will last a lifetime, to hold more meaningful matches and encourage new habits amongst our fans.
We see the evidence of this in other sports the world over and we see it for ourselves when home teams are playing in our existing events.
The impact is huge. With more spectators and more local fans, our events are suddenly more attractive to broadcasters and commercial partners and so we are able to generate more income.
At the same time, it means playing fewer matches because we stop playing the matches that we know have minimal value.
We know it’s what our fans want. We know that “Hockey is best at home”.
The teams selected will substantially benefit from the increased number of home matches as part of a more consistent hockey calendar. With more opportunities to see their heroes in action throughout the year, national teams' fan base and followers are expected to grow. This will not only increase the commercial value of the sport through ticket sales, hospitality and merchandising, but also commercial interest in the teams and their athletes through increased sponsorship opportunities.
It is predicted that the increased commercial potential of implementing the new structure will generate considerably more value for the sport, which will filter down into all levels, including new and developing hockey nations, from elite to grassroots level.
So we firmly believe we have an amazing new concept for hockey - chosen because it fulfils the principles we laid out and because of the potential it has to deliver so many benefits to the sport.
We want to send out a message to those millions of general sports fans around the world to say ‘come and have a look at Hockey!’
It is different from traditional tournament hockey; it will be incredibly entertaining; it’s certainly going to be Big, Bold Packed & Loud. And it’s built with TV in mind.
The FIH Pro League will raise the profile of all the teams involved, building a wider, more committed and loyal fan-base who will have so many more chances than at present to see their team in action at home.
When you add to this the essential element of more national TV broadcasters and with that, more sponsorship, it's easy to see the impact this new League will have on the players.
We have always made one of the aims of the Hockey Revolution to build player profile. We believe the FIH Pro League will generate the kind of interest – across all media – to turn athletes into superstars.
This becomes a virtuous circle. When you create superstars, they have the power to bring new fans – young and old – to the sport for life.
We know the appetite is there. We saw, after the Rio Olympics in 2016, that the degree of passion and excitement generated back home in Argentina and Great Britain as a result of winning their respective gold medals was palpable and long lasting. Key players were known by their names and the degree of recognition went through the roof as they continued to take part in programmes and interviews that were both sports and lifestyle related.
FIH will be working hard to amplify the impact of all the participating teams specifically within the markets of the participating nations. The placement of articles within lifestyle and business publications will be important as we want to reach beyond traditional hockey and sports media
All nations affiliated to FIH and not playing in the FIH Pro League are eligible to enter the Hockey Series Open. In 2018, more than 75 teams are expected to compete.
However, the nine highest placed nations in the FIH Hero World Ranking as of 9 June 2017, that are not playing in the FIH Pro League will be exempt from the Hockey Series Open and will qualify directly for the Hockey Series Finals.
In 2019, three Hockey Series Finals will take place, each with eight teams competing.
The Hockey Series Finals will include at least five qualifiers from the Hockey Series Open but contain no more than three of the teams that qualified directly for the Finals based on World Ranking. For the 2018/2019 cycle, events will take place during the following periods:
- The Hockey Series Open is scheduled to take place between June and September 2018
- The Hockey Series Finals will take place in May and June 2019
For more information on the Hockey Series Open & Finals,
In addition, we will continue to hold our World Cup every 4 years. After all, this is our tournament – we own it – and it’s become one of the most prestigious prizes that exists in Hockey – it’s right up there alongside winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Essentially the World Cup doesn’t change its purpose or its place in our calendar. It remains all about sporting excellence, qualifying for the next round and achieving the GLORY that can only come from winning a world cup.
All of these teams will continue to play in their continental events and will have the additional opportunity to play matches against FIH Pro League teams when they are geographically nearby.
We are confident that the increased commercial potential of implementing the new structure will generate considerably more value for the sport overall, which will filter down to all levels, including new and developing hockey nations, from elite to grassroots level.
Of course, this will take some time, but we believe the benefits will be measurable and wide ranging.
The hosts, Japan, and the continental champions automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games.
As Japan men and women won the recent Asian Games yet had already qualified as hosts, seven nations will qualify for each of the men’s and women’s hockey events at Tokyo 2020 through FIH Olympic Qualification Events played at the end of 2019.
The 14 teams taking part in the Olympic Qualification Events will be:
- The top four nations from FIH Pro League
- The top two nations from each of the Hockey Series Finals
- The four highest ranked nations in the FIH Hero World Rankings (at the end of the 2019 Continental Championships) not already qualified via the above routes.
The Olympic Qualification Events are scheduled to take place between October and November 2019. Official Olympic Hockey Qualification Guidelines can be.
The 'power of home' is not just about where our games are held, but has been fundamental to our discussions with broadcasters – now well advanced – to establish a number of long term 'home broadcasters'.
These will be channels committed to broadcasting and promoting the League, enabling fans to watch consistently and always know where the FIH Pro League is being broadcast.
This marks a step change. In the past, broadcast has moved around making it difficult for fans to find hockey when they want to watch. At last, everyone will know who the broadcaster/channels are in their home market so that fans can catch every minute of every match.
The FIH is also committed to substantially upgrading our web presence to support the New Portfolio of events, allowing us to give fans more of the information and interaction that we know they love. The new website will provide a load more stats, and game data, skills and in-depth player commentary that we know Hockey Fanatics cannot get enough of. Our social media platforms will be packed with regular, unique and engaging content 365 days of the year, going deep behind the scenes allowing fans to get to know the athletes better.
In 2014, we launched the Hockey Revolution – a revolutionary 10-year strategy to ensure that we would achieve our single over-riding ambition: – to make hockey ‘a global game that inspires the next generation’. We knew this would require us to raise the global status and popularity of hockey through:
- The development of innovative and exciting entertainment events
- Increasing the degree of professionalism in the sport
- Building a recognised, powerful image for hockey
- Generating millions more followers around the world
Developing a New Event Portfolio sits at the very heart of the Hockey Revolution.
In 2014 we said ‘We need better and more entertaining events – maybe different competitions and leagues and we need a more coherent calendar of events spread through the year and in different parts of the world’.
The New Event Portfolio work started out with 3 big, ambitious objectives:
- To transform our TV and media coverage Huge numbers of fans tuning in all around the world to watch events that are scheduled at times that work for them and the media; events that generate headlines and build online profile. Digital content that can be consumed non-stop.
- To deliver events that are consistently Big, Bold, Packed and Loud This is all about delivering great events, ensuring we have packed stands, amazing atmospheres and un-miss-able events in the sports calendar with globally recognized star-players driving our coverage on TV, social media and elsewhere.
- To transform Hockey’s financial position We also needed to grow our funds so that we can develop more career athletes and employ a greater number of professional staff to develop expertise in our NAs and CFs and raise the stakes of our events by offering serious prize money
This was a huge undertaking that required us to take a long, hard look at all our events, right across the board. We had to be prepared to start with a blank sheet of paper and to listen carefully to what our fans were telling us they wanted.
What they told us was… they wanted exciting international competitions that provide ‘must-see’ matches.
Today, too many of our events are planned without specific attention to the needs of TV, media and digital support.
Too many of our events have no particular purpose or meaning for local fans.
In short, they are simply not ‘fan-focused’ enough.
Our New Events Portfolio will ensure that every event has a unique role and purpose, that people will understand immediately, making them each strong, distinct and complementary. This is critical for us in raising our profile.
Today, this work has resulted in the biggest and most exciting change to the way we deliver hockey to fans around the world - in our lifetime.
This is a very exciting moment. Now that we’re able to announce the teams that will showcase the FIH Pro League in 2019, the countdown begins.
We will be working alongside all participating nations over the next 18 months and beyond, to ensure absolutely everything is in place to deliver Big, Bold, Packed and Loud matches at all venues and on every occasion.
Our key role is to support those successful nations so that from the minute the whistle blows for the start of the first FIH Pro League match in January 2019, it’s clear to the fans in the stadium as it is to the viewers at home, that this is different. This is un-miss-able.