Lausanne, Switzerland: This coming weekend sees the return of the FIH Hockey Pro League, with the second season getting off to a flying start as inaugural women’s champions the Netherlands begin their title defence with two away games against China.
The opening fixtures, which take place at the Wujin Hockey Stadium in Changzhou on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 January, are the first of 144 matches that will be contested between January and June 2020, with the world’s finest men’s and women’s international teams fighting for the chance to win the respective titles.
The first edition of this trailblazing competition took place in 2019 and featured some fantastic hockey moments, with home fans embracing the opportunity to witness their national teams testing themselves against the world’s best on home soil.
The 2020 edition is set to be equally significant. Twenty venues in 11 countries will host FIH Hockey Pro League matches this year, providing a global spread of world-class hockey across multiple time-zones over the next six months. The fact that 16 of the 18 competing teams will also feature at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 adds even more spice to an event that is, as 2019 proved, rarely short of excitement. All of the competing teams will be acutely aware that a strong showing in the FIH Hockey Pro League would provide a significant boost to confidence levels going into the XXXII Olympiad.
Reflecting on last year’s inaugural edition, FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra said that the event had “allowed the sport of hockey to showcase itself like never before”, as growing stadium, broadcast and live streaming audiences were entertained on a weekly basis by shock results, sensational team performances and extraordinary individual achievements. However, despite being understandably delighted with many aspects of the first edition, Dr Batra believes that the learnings from season one will make for an even better second edition.
“It is not in our nature to maintain the status quo by simply standing still”, said the FIH President. “The 2020 edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League sees the introduction of a new match schedule, splitting home and away matches over two consecutive seasons to create a series of ‘double headers’ throughout the competition. This is an important move in terms of player welfare and sustainability, significantly reducing travel fatigue and environmental impact by cutting the number of flights by half, which in turn substantially lowers travel and accommodation costs for the competing teams.”
Another change from the inaugural edition is the removal of the end-of-season Grand Final event, with the respective men’s and women’s champions of 2020 being the teams that have accumulated the highest number of points by the end of the competition.
The FIH Hockey Pro League welcomes another powerhouse of international hockey to the competition this year, with India men (FIH World Ranking: 5) joining the fold. The eight-times Olympic champions will play their home matches at the iconic Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, the 15,000-capacity venue that so wonderfully staged the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup in 2018. India will be keen to impress in a competition that features the nine highest ranked teams in the world, with Pro League title holders and Oceania champions Australia (WR:1), World and European champions Belgium (2), Olympic champions Argentina (WR:4), the Netherlands (WR:3), Germany (WR: 6), Great Britain (WR:7), Spain (WR:8) and New Zealand (WR:9) all involved.
It comes as little surprise that the Netherlands (WR:1), the reigning World, European and FIH Hockey Pro League champions, are seen very much as the team to beat in the women’s competition. However, they are certain to be pushed all the way by the eight other teams who are determined to wrestle the trophy from their grasp. 2019 Pro League silver medallists Australia (WR:2) – the only team to defeat the Netherlands in the inaugural edition – could well be the team most likely, while Pan American Games champions Argentina (WR:3), European silver medallists Germany (WR:4), Olympic champions Great Britain (WR:5), Oceania champions New Zealand (WR:6), China (WR:10), Belgium (WR:12) and USA (WR:13) will all be looking to make their mark.
To find out how you can watch the action, please visit our broadcast page by clicking here. In territories where broadcast rights agreements are not in place, fans can watch live match action from the FIH Hockey Pro League via the FIH.live global broadcast platform. To visit FIH.live, click here.
To see the confirmed match schedule for the FIH Hockey Pro League, which includes links to ticket sites for each of the matches, please click here. For information about how to purchase tickets for the FIH Hockey Pro League matches, please click here.
Additional information about the FIH Hockey Pro League opener between China and the Netherlands can be found below. You can follow all the action as it unfolds via our live reporting service on the FIH website.
China v Netherlands (W)
Where: Wujin Hockey Stadium, Changzhou (CHN)
When: 11 & 12 January 2019, Both matches at 14:00 local time (GMT/UTC+8)
Current FIH World Rankings: China: 10 | Netherlands: 1
Final standings – FIH Hockey Pro League 2019: China: 7 | Netherlands: 1
Previous FIH Hockey Pro League meetings
3 March 2019: China 1-2 Netherlands– Wujin Hockey Stadium, Changzhou (CHN)
Scorers: CHN – Guo Qiu. NED – Lauren Stam, Freeke Moes.
10 April 2019: Netherlands 6-0 China– SV Kampong, Utrecht (NED).
Scorers: NED – Caia van Maasakker (3), Frederique Matla, Xan de Waard, Marijn Veen.
Head-to-heads in all competitions (since 2013 – 11 matches)
Wins: China 0 | Netherlands 11
Goals scored: China 3 | Netherlands 37