Not all those who wander are lost. That’s a great mantra if you’re practising yoga, but it is certainly not for your event.

This sport has my investments, and my time and so i speak from a global hockey perspective.

I hate to say this, but the truth is that, that the first edition of the FIH Pro League turned out to be yet another profound organizational flops in the history of hockey — it was nothing but a shoddily orchestrated league leaving a string of broken promises, busted dreams in its wake.

It is baffling when i see, that it is being sold as a success now…. Oh Puhlease!

The “Pro” in the PRO League never stood for anything. It was there literally only because it looked cool. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sports entrepreneur and a marketer, so I’m well-aware that it’s normal to put a little mustard on the hot dog to sell a call.

As stated on the FIH Website, the tournament was delivered after three years of research and after consulting some 600 stake holders – but the scheduling and marketing of this league looked like it was sketched out over pancakes.

“The Pro League has killed hockey. Everybody, everybody is disappointed.”  — Japan Head Coach Siegfried Aikman poured his agony out in front of the media in Bhubaneswar, India.

 

Even an official, who did not wish to be named called the league a flop — “there are millions of reasons that the Pro League was a flop, but it will sadly be sold as a success.”

I do not speak for players, coaches and staff experiences, I only speak as a sport builder, a sport observer and a sport investor.

So, let us see everything that went wrong with it and hopefully if they truly care for this sport, they will take heed.

Zero  Appeal

“Hockey will be regularly and permanently on television, with the best nations playing each other. That has to be good for the game,” said the FIH CEO Thierry Weil when he was appointed last year.

Aiming for more hockey, is good. But, you also have to aim for good innovative hockey.

Fans want to see a little beyond World No.2 play World No.1 now. This, they already get to see at the World Cup and the Olympics.

It is a different ball game today, Fans now want to see how a World No.10 stands up against a World No.1, how a World No.21 beats a World Cup bronze medallist, stuff like that.

Fans want to see upsets, Reporters want to report drama, photographers want to capture emotions.

Ultimately, a tournament of this sort was suppose to be appealing to everyone, but this is something that failed on many grounds.

Lack of Spectators

“If you build it, they will come.” This epic sounding statement is sadly not true in most circumstances and has resulted in a lot of time, resources, and money down the drain.

Having games at home was good, but only a handful of venues saw a full house, despite the games being “sold out” to the general public.

It is obvious, that they’re not showing up because they aren’t excited about the tournament and that lack of excitement is a direct result of the lack of creativity involved in scripting, packaging, marketing and selling this event.

Geo-blocks

Just type in “FIH.LIVE ” on Twitter and see what you find. Boom, bam, pow! Countless people venting their frustrations.

Even when TV broadcasters were not showing the game live, the games were geoblocked from watching on FIH.LIVE.

Expert Sports Commentator Ashley Morrison on his blog stated;

Viewers have been frustrated with games not being shown “Live” and being geo-blocked on FIH’s own platform.
It is ironic that now, as the end of the first year of the FIH Pro League approaches, it is Television that is being blamed as being the cost that has hurt the potential of the competition, and it is in this area that costs have been cut. These cuts are believed by many to have harmed the integrity of the product.

⁠—Ashley Morrison – Not the Footy Show

 

Hockey Blogger & Podcaster, Ernst Baart of Studio Hockey in his blog  too stated;

Honestly, if a broadcaster will not guarantee all local games to be shown live (meaning the exact moment the game is being played, so not merely within 24 hours of it being played) it is not worth entering the agreement with them.
Games should be seen live at all times and full replays should be available at all times for all. If you can not guarantee this, why bother.

⁠— Ernst Baart – Studio Hockey

Rich Dad vs Poor Dad

There is an imbalance of points for the FIH Pro League and FIH Series Finals participating teams which makes it a curious case of Rich Dad vs Poor Dad.

Take a closer look and you will see a severe disparity.

  • The FIH Pro League winner gets 700 points and the FIH Hockey Series Finals winner gets 500 points.
  • The Pro League Runner-up gets 650 points while the FIH Series Finals Runner-up gets 400 points.
  • The Pro League third place finisher gets 600 points while the FIH Series Finals third place finisher gets 300 points.

We were here to celebrate hockey, come together for hockey but what we got to see was severe disparity of this beautiful sport.

Coach of the Japan National Men‘s Team Siegfried Aikman took to twitter and said;

The Ranking system is highly unfair. Why do the Pro League participating nations get more points than the FIH Series Finals participants. Through both events, one is able to earn the right to play Olympic Qualifiers, so why the difference in the points?

⁠—Siegfried Aikman

The Hook, an Irish Hockey Blog too tweeted,

The Rankings are unfair, particularly when a country can lose every Pro League game and retain their ranking. This system literally does not allow for the Pro League sides to drop out of the top eight.

HookHockey.com

No Benefits for Players

Most players played to represent their country. The FIH Promised that the Pro League would professionalise this sport, but none have reported to have received an additional income to play this tournament.

The total prize money for the tournament was just $250k. The winning team got $125k, the runners-up got $62.5k, the third finishers got $50k and the team that finished fourth got $12.5k.

Each team had 32 players, and the Top Four teams played a total of 16 matches. Some of this amount also had to go to the governing body.

So, in the end if you calculate, this hardly qualifies as a prize.

No Consistency in Presentation

It is not enough to simply broadcast a match. It is important to also entertain and inform the audience by presenting information or entertainment in an accessible and attractive way.

John Lee, Co-Founder of The Reverse Stick, another popular Hockey Podcast, took to facebook to post his views;

My issue is the lack of consistency across the broadcasts and in the presentation of the product. I think BT and Fox did an excellent job. Some other broadcasts were not so good. One commentator doing multiple games, training markups on the pitch, stats for some games, not others. Shot clocks??? Where were they?

⁠— John Lee

Wrong Timing

The Finals of both the FIH Series Finals tournament and the FIH Pro League Finals were scheduled in the month of June.

I mean, did you not know that there was a Cricket World Cup, a Rugby and a Football Championship happening all at the same time?

Absolute pity for the broadcasters, fans, publishers and marketers.

Overlapping Schedules

The other frustration is over the schedules of the FIH Pro League and the FIH Series Finals tournament. Both of them overlapped with each other.

Was it so hard to work on a better schedule? Was it is so important to have such a taxing schedule?

With such a haphazard schedule for the matches, for even people who were working on the sport, it was hard to keep track of when the games were being played across the World.

Google Search Trends and Reach

Google Trends that captures search interest in different topics, is a particularly powerful tool to quantify the nation’s interests.

One look at Google Trends, and you will know it barely registered any searches for the game.

Infact, The FIH Hockey Series Finals Tournament had more searches than the Pro League could ever generate in six months.

It is another pity, that the Hockey Series tournament which was more successfully executed will be scrapped out moving forward.

Twickenham Stoop

One great thing Great Britain hockey got to witness was the turn out at the Twickenham Stoop in London which was revolutionising.

Turning a rugby stadium into a portable hockey stadium was historic. There is no denying that.

But, i have to mention that the credit for this revolution does not go to FIH.

That was the vision, brain child and execution of the very brilliant Sally Munday and England Hockey.

So, How do you put up a better show?

Ask the right people

As a sport marketer and promoter, I am a huge believer in simply asking fans and teams what they want. And sometimes the best way to do this is to ask. Even relatively old-school tactics like surveys and polls can go a long way to show you are listening.

Internal Changes

Ofcourse, getting people on board to try new ideas can be a challenge.

Sometimes even if you have a CEO willing to adopt stuff, you have many other people in the organisation who don’t know and don’t care or won’t agree and vice versa, which we understand but something needs to be done about this.

Time for Leaders to connect with Teams, Players and Fans online

As a new-gen sport builder and a pretty young one, I just do not trust something which is not digitally transparent. Not a thing, Not a person.

Nearly 70% of the FIH Board Members including the CEO are still missing the mark on social.

They either don’t understand how social media supports business objectives or are hiding or aren’t committed to using it effectively to achieve their goals.

It’s no longer safe for businesses specially sporting organisations and administrators to stay silent on their values, business decisions, and political and social stances.

Fans, Players, Teams, Support Staff need to know the rationale behind business decisions and want your compelling behind-the-scenes perspective.

Avoid doing the same-thing again and again.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This is pretty much what happened to the Hockey India League. It was sold as a success year after year, but it only made the investors more bankrupt and the fans utterly disappointed.

Ofcourse, all is not lost if you review, take feedback and learn from your mistakes and like any losing team pledge to come back stronger.

Remember that being perfect isn’t an option and some things are out of your control. However, having a resilient attitude, and knowing your audience is completely in your hands.

Otherwise, its just another event, another defunct, fly-by-night hockey league going belly-up in world hockey.

Signing off xx

Nimisha Jagasia

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