A helping hand up the development ladder is always welcome but when it involves donating an entire pitch, then the generous nature of the hockey family really comes to the fore.
Under the European Hockey Federation’s (EHF) 'Give and Get' programme, clubs are encouraged to give their old turfs to national federations who are unable to afford a new field but have a strong demand for hockey.
In the past six years, eight turfs have been taken up and delivered to a new home, with three of them already providing a surface for international competition.
EHF Education and Development Manager Norman Hughes explains how the programme works: “We work with the richer, more developed National Associations such as England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to identify pitches which are being replaced but have at least five years of life left in them.
“Developing nations send us their requests and we priorities those nations that we think will benefit most. For those clubs that donate pitches, there is pleasure in knowing that their old pitch is helping others less fortunate.”
There is no set criteria for a successful application but Hughes says that the decision will fall in favour of the poorest nations and the number of players the field could introduce to the game.
He also explained how historical hockey participation can play a part. “If a nation used to have a strong hockey heritage but when the pitches changed from grass to artificial turf they got left behind, then we will look carefully at helping those nations,” he says, pointing to the examples of many eastern European nations.
In the latest example of the 'Give and Get' programme, reported on the EHF website, EHF Vice-President Carola Meyer joined Hughes in Berlin, Germany to discuss with club officials from Club fur Leibesubungen the possible donation of a pitch to the Belarus Hockey Federation. EHF Partner Polytan was also on hand to assist, with Matthias Dittman helping assess the carpet and its possibilities.
The initial talks were sparked by a meeting between EHF’s partners Polytan and Carola Meyer at the German Indoor Club Finals. A contractor from Belarus, Vladimir Strok, helped in coordinating the donation. The pitch will be gifted to a new hockey city in the east of Belarus, Mogilev, which very recently hosted the National Indoor Finals.
Quoted on the EHF website, Norman Hughes says: “Thanks to wonderful networking and co-operation between our partners Polytan who met with EHF Vice President Carola Meyer at the Germany Indoor Finals, EHF was able to procure this hockey carpet. EHF wishes to thank Polytan and the Hockey Club for their kind offer and support.”
The cost of lifting and moving the field is met through a joint financial effort between the EHF and the receiving national federation. EHF assists with the lifting costs while the national federation pays for the trucks to transport the carpet. Hughes says the transport costs can reach upwards of €15,000, so it is not a light undertaking.
For Hughes, the programme is essential for developing nations. He explains that creating the surface for a pitch is one of the first steps up the ladder to increased participation and improved performance at all levels of the game.
Once the carpet is laid, the onus is then on the club, the town, the state or the federation to get people playing the sport. So far, three of the eight pitches – in Croatia, Lithuania and Slovenia – have hosted internationals - for the development manager, this is a huge success and one he hopes will inspire others to 'Give and Get'.
An article about a turf recently relaid in Croatia can be found one the EHF website by clicking here.
This activity is yet another example of increasing professionalism within our sport - with these stakeholders working together to enhance sustainability but also develop the sport in countries that require support. This is one of the four Big Goals of FIH's 10-year Hockey Revolution which aims to make hockey a global game that inspires the next generation. For more information on the Hockey Revolution click here.