Founder’s Desk : Why the Hockey 5’s will be a total success

There are four kinds of people who opinionate the most on hockey :
  1. Former Coaches
  2. Former Players/Club Players
  3. Sports Journalist/Commentators
  4. Hockey Platform founders
These people also are the biggest promoters of the sport. But that’s it, that’s the only fandom this sport has. It’s been rare that we met a hockey fan with no hockey background or exposure.
And that’s why, when this news was out, I couldn’t be more pleased. What a fantastic opportunity to grow more fan base I said. What a fantastic opportunity for more countries to play this sport on an international level.
From a personal experience, it was always fantastic to see 5 and 7 a side. The fast paced nature of the game and the numerous opportunities of scoring brings in a a shed load of excitement, something that can be lost on an 11 a side pitch if the game is flat or isn’t going your way.
As a marketer of the sport, I feel this short sided version of the sport we love can be just as enjoyable as the full sided versions and that the Hockey 5’s can give the games a real push. I’ll give you not five, but nine reasons why.
  1. Fast and Furious
With matches likely to last between 20 minutes instead of a lung-busting 60, players can afford to play at a higher intensity and offer the crowd an even more impressive display of athleticism and physicality.
2.     Easier to understand

Easy to play and follow. Played in a smaller arena, Hockey5s is viewer friendly and there are no stoppages, unless a player is injured or substituted. The sole mission of the players is to play fair and score more goals than their opponents.
3.     More Goals

The duration may be short but that doesn’t limit the goal scoring appetite of the players, who are always looking to get their names on the scoring sheet. In the last youth Olympics at Nanjing, an average of eight goals were scored in the preliminary round in the boys’ section. Expect more of the same in Buenos Aires!
4.     More Participation. 
Making these games more accessible and promoting them at a lower level can increase rugby’s participation levels. 
As well as this, playing the shorter, less physical games is more attractive to people who are just looking to play a friendly game during an evening or for a short time at the weekend, reducing the likehood of injury is important for anyone playing recreational sport. 
Hockey5’s has played an instrumental role in spreading the sport to developing nations and contribute towards the FIH’s 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy to transform the sport. Like the last edition, expect lesser known hockey nations to give some of the hockey power-houses a tough game.
If it was Zambia that stunned Germany 8-1 in Nanjing, expect more such surprises from Zambia, Kenya, Vanuatu and Namibia in this edition. A total of 24 teams (men and women) will be competing for the gold medals.
5. It’s Fun
Lets not take anything away from 11 a side, at the best of times, it is arguably the most exciting sport in the world and most of the time its fantastic to play.
However, who doesn’t love a good 10-9 victory on a 5 or 7 a side pitch after you’ve finished your day at work, college or university?
Making sessions and games fun is paramount to keeping children onboard with the idea of sport, short sided games allow everyone to be involved for most of the game, which therefore prevents a child from feeling left out because for whatever reason, he is being left out of the team.
6. Least expensive
The small game is important to the future of hockey. It is expensive to host 24 teams for two weeks to an Olympic Games, so for the future of the sport, we need to look at how costs can be controlled and how to get more countries to the top tournaments and for them to be able to afford to participate. But the 11 a-side format will remain for the 2016 Olympics.
7. House-full audience
“In previous years, with an earlier start, the venue was less than full at the start of play and if one or two matches turned into 90-minute marathons, we were behind schedule.
“That meant that the players competing in the final match of the evening would sometimes play to a half-empty auditorium because of spectators leaving to catch their last train home.
“We have had no complaints from spectators, only thanks that they can enjoy all four matches in their entirety during the early rounds on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
8. Evolution not Disruption
In an industry where fan engagement and interaction are high on the priority list, short-form sports allow brands to hold a more captive audience through a combination of easy to digest rules and unique entertainment offering.
“It focuses on the more dramatic aspects of the game that really appeal, often within a festival atmosphere. It’s a key way to grow any sport. While core audiences may be harder to win around, for example in T20, the longer form products are still there to satisfy their needs.
9. Easier for new fans
While short-form has been on the rise, traditional sports formats have been struggling to attract new audiences and participants.
If you do want to try and hold the attention span of a slightly younger generation whilst maintaining our loyal fans and big tennis following then yes, we will be closely looking at whether we want to reduce the amount of time on the court.
According to McKinsey, fans of all ages—not just millennials—are watching fewer games, and also quitting them faster.
The introduction of short-form formats provides the perfect antidote to the modern fan’s appetite: action served up fast, live, and without extended breaks.
Hockey Fraternity Reacts
Jerome Buck, a Coach based in Australia said; 
“Think of it like athletics, nations would rather pump funding into training 1 athlete in the aim of getting one medal than a big team sport for 1 medal as well. It’s not rocket science it’s a well documented fact. But it’s vocal minorities who don’t want any change who are the real enemy of the sport. They shouldn’t fear change, they u should embrace it.
Llyod Norris Jones, Founder of a sport company from South Africa said;
“Hockey 5’s is thriving in South Africa. Many leagues/festivals & the vast majority of the hockey community love it!”
Dallas Noble, from South Africa too said”
I dont know 5’s, but if its anything like mini hockey, then lots of potential exists, id rather watch & coach mini hockey format than full field 11’s. Isn’t this a case of what our attitude & approach is that makes the difference…? Full fields are already marked to accommodate 5’s. .?
My advice
The benefits to the shorter format are very marketable and its wider introduction could help pave the way for more widespread interest from new, youthful audiences.
With FIH doing everything it can to help hockey grow its standing and popularity, the logistical considerations of presenting tournaments in their best light must be carefully considered.
Having said that, i feel a lot of people are fearing change. But, like Jerome said, embrace the change. Be open for experimentation. What’s the worst that could happen?
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