Ahead of its launch in January 2019, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) looks ahead to the start of the game-changing Hockey Pro League, which will see the nine best men’s and women’s teams from around the world play each other both at home and away every year.
The inaugural season of the Hockey Pro League begins on 19 January 2019, with 152 matches scheduled to take place between January and June, with national stadiums hosting matches week in, week out.
Nine women’s and nine men’s teams will be competing for the Hockey Pro League title, playing eight home and eight away matches throughout the first six months of every year. The top four teams will then compete to determine the winner in a Grand Final later in June.
The Hockey Pro League features an equally amazing line up of nations, with both the Women’s and Men’s Leagues featuring a glittering array of the finest international hockey teams on earth. The Women’s League will see Argentina, Australia, Belgium, China, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA all going head to head, while Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and Spain will be fighting it out for the men’s title.
The FIH recently confirmed the match schedule for the event, with Spain men will getting things underway when they host Rio 2016 and EuroHockey Championship silver medallists Belgium in the opening match of the Hockey Pro League.
A busy schedule then follows, with the majority of early matches being played in the southern hemisphere.
As one of the early season highlights, Argentina women will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of reigning Hockey World Cup and World League champions Netherlands as the EuroHockey title winners head south to take on Las Leonas on 24 February.
Shortly afterwards the spotlight turns to Australia as their men and women challenge Oceania rivals New Zealand for continental bragging rights over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend – 17 March. The return matches will take place in New Zealand on Anzac Day – 25 April.
Another continental duel sure to get fans buzzing will be Argentina women’s visit to the USA. The Pan American rivals, who have taken wins against each other in recent months, go head to head on 12 May.
The teams then follow the summer by returning to the northern hemisphere. An exciting end to the League awaits as nations compete to finish in the top four to guarantee qualification for the Grand Final.
With Pakistan men playing in Glasgow, Scotland, their match against Great Britain on 25 May is bound capture the imagination of fans. A large local Pakistani crowd will be looking forward to the friendly rivalry with their British opponents as they aim to defend their home turf in one of Great Britain’s most multi-cultured cities.
European neighbours Germany and Netherlands men always provide lots of goals and drama, and in the Hockey Pro League nothing less can be expected. Whilst Netherlands fans will be looking forward to backing their team in their homeland on 5 March, Germany will be aiming for victory against the European champions on their turf on 26 April.
In what will be a unique, double-header weekend, due to their proximity – Belgium men and women will play at home to Netherlands on the Saturday before replaying the match the following day in the Netherlands over the weekend of 8 and 9 June.
Another highlight in the women’s competition will be the game between continental rivals Great Britain and Netherlands in what will be a rematch of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games final. As the world’s number one ranked team, the Dutch will look to gain psychological advantage from their first encounter against the Olympic champions at their home turf on 1 June, before heading to Great Britain on 15 June.
Similarly, Argentina and Belgium men also have an ongoing rivalry following their Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medal match. On that occasion Argentina men emerged victorious therefore Belgium will be wanting to turn the tables in what will be a dramatic end to their season on 23 June – the very last day of League competition.
Looking ahead to the start of this exhilarating new competition, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said: “The planning for this ground-breaking event has been years in the making and we are extremely excited about the start of this competition on 19th January 2019. We have been pleased by the positive response from our stakeholders, who have recognised the importance of creating a product that will attract even more fans, television coverage and commercial partners.”
He continued: “The Hockey Pro League and the recently announced Hockey Series are both central to the New Event Portfolio, which has been developed to raise the global status and popularity of hockey as part of our ambition to make hockey ‘a global game that inspires future generations’. We believe that these innovative changes will have a huge impact on the continuing development and growth of hockey in all corners of the world, attracting an army of new fans, players, coaches and officials to the sport.“