Were you expecting so much controversy about the results of the FIH Hockey Stars Awards?
Thierry Weil: If, in an Olympic year, the Gold medallists don’t win any Award and another nation gets all of them, it is clear that this won’t come across well! Therefore, I of course do understand the disappointment and also, to some extent, the anger, especially of the teams concerned. At the same time, I want to congratulate the winners! They were all nominated by an expert committee – made of FIH, FIH Athletes Committee and high performance representatives – and therefore were as much entitled as the others to win! And both Indian teams had a fantastic performance at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020! I assume that the natural joy which they should rightly feel by winning such an Award may have been altered by all this, and that is not nice either.
Do you think the current voting process is right?
Thierry Weil: I’m not sure if there is any ideal process, to be honest. But this process – as long as it is implemented by everybody – should work. It is very similar to what is applied successfully by other organisations. It gives the chance to major hockey stakeholders – teams, players, coaches, fans and media – to cast a vote for the most important yearly awards in global hockey, while a higher weight is given to national team coaches and captains.
Was it a new process this time?
Thierry Weil: No, it was pretty much the same as last time. There were two differences. Firstly, we made it compulsory for the National Associations that their votes should come from their national team coaches and captains; I believe that everybody will agree that this was the right thing to do in order to increase the technical legitimacy of the vote. Secondly, the voting process for the coaches was the same as the one for the athletes this time (while the FIH Coach of the Year Award was determined by an FIH panel previously).
Was this vote transparent enough? Shouldn’t you publish the individual votes, at least for the National Associations and media?
Thierry Weil: Before the vote, we explained in detail the voting process as well as the weight given to the various voting groups. And after the vote, we published all results, from every voting group and for all nominees. Revealing who voted for whom is a question which we should have a look at. Will it bring something or not, I can’t tell at this stage. But we should not exclude any option before examining them.
Is it really a good idea to have fans voting for an Award which is meant to define the best athletes and coaches from a technical perspective?
Thierry Weil: Our overall strategy at FIH is to put athletes and fans at the centre of everything we do. So, it is essential to give fans an option to express their views. If in this regard the current process is the right one or not, is something we will need to analyse of course. But clearly we need to involve the fans one way or the other. After all, thanks to this vote, we will have the opportunity to engage with almost 300’000 fans! This is not only good for India – where most of these fans are coming from – but for the growth of our sport overall and therefore the whole hockey community! Also, as we’ve mentioned on the day of the vote, all winning athletes have topped the standings in each of the three voting groups (National Associations / Fans and Players / Media). In other words, even if fans wouldn’t have voted, the winning athletes would have been the same.
How do you explain that almost half of the National Associations (NAs) did not take the opportunity to vote?
Thierry Weil: I have to admit that I have no answer to this yet. Maybe we haven’t been clear enough? But we did send reminders to the NAs before the end of the vote. And I have personally contacted several members of the hockey community to warn them about this situation, and I know they were active. But still, many National Associations did not cast their vote. Clearly this had by far the biggest impact on the results. If you set up a jury but half of this jury doesn’t vote, how can you expect that people will unanimously accept the results? In our analysis, we will have to establish why this situation happened.
Will the process remain the same in the future?
Thierry Weil: I can’t answer this question before we do a thorough analysis. But I can tell you that we will work on the future Stars Awards with the global hockey community. We will engage with many stakeholders to come up with a process which receives the support of most, and then go with it for next year. These Awards are here to promote hockey, athletes and coaches. It isn’t good for anybody if they lead to controversy. I’ve already engaged with a few and will continue to do so. We will most likely create a Task Force to look at this. And I’m absolutely convinced that we will find a compromise which will ensure that the global hockey community celebrates these Awards in the future!