The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has today (Wednesday) launched a new national team competition as part of an effort to support the development of the sport in countries around the world.
The ‘Hockey Series’ will provide a new qualification opportunity for both men’s and women’s teams to progress to the summer Olympic Games, as well as future Hockey World Cups.
The contest will start with the Hockey Series Open and progress to the Hockey Series Finals, with events to be played in the two years leading up to an Olympics or Hockey World Cup. Each tournament will culminate in a series of Olympic or World Cup qualification events, with the winning nation guaranteed a place in either competition.
The inaugural competition will be based around qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with FIH national associations not participating in the Hockey Pro League able to enter.
A minimum of 15 teams will qualify for one of three finals, where they will be joined the top nine nations in the FIH World Rankings not playing in the Pro League. Each final will feature eight nations and take place at three venues around the world between May and June 2019.
The top two nations from each final will be guaranteed a place in the Olympic qualification events. Here, they will compete with the top four nations from the Pro League and the two highest placed nations in the World Rankings at the end of the 2019 Continental Championships that have not yet qualified.
A total of 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will compete for six spots at Tokyo 2020. Each event will feature two nations playing two back-to-back matches, based on their end-of-season rankings, and the country that scores the highest aggregate score over the matches will qualify for the Games.
Olympic qualification events will run from October to November 2019, with the winning teams to join Olympic host nation Japan and each of the five continental champions that automatically qualify for the Games.
Thierry Weil, chief executive of the FIH, said: “We have been working with a large number of stakeholders for a number of years to create a portfolio of events that help grow the sport at all levels. For emerging nations, the Hockey Series Open will provide a challenging and inspirational environment that will be unlike anything many will have experienced before, while the Hockey Series Finals will be spectacular events featuring many of the world’s best teams.”
“These are hugely important competitions not only in terms of Olympic and World Cup qualification, but also in terms of development. We will be heavily supporting the Hockey Series to ensure our sport remains exciting, engaging and relevant across all levels of the game.
“Together, the FIH and the global hockey community are working hard to help every hockey-playing nation achieve their potential.”
Confirmed hosts so far for the inaugural Hockey Series Open, which will take place between June and September, include Gniezno in Poland; Lousada in Portugal; Salamanca in Mexico; Santiago in Chile; Singapore; Wattignies in France; Vilnius in Lithuania and Zagreb in Croatia. Details about other hosts will be announced in due course.
The events will also be broadcast on the FIH’s YouTube channel.