Hockey: Chance to host World Cup 2018 on NZ's radar

By David Leggat

FIH chief executive Kelly Fairweather. Photo / Sarah Ivey
FIH chief executive Kelly Fairweather. Photo / Sarah Ivey

New Zealand has a solid case for hosting a World Cup in 2018 and have been making their argument to hockey's top official this week.

International Hockey Federation (FIH) chief executive Kelly Fairweather was in Auckland as part of a whistlestop tour around the countries who have put their hand up to host either the men's or women's event in five years' time.

Malaysia, Australia, India and New Zealand have applied to run the men's tournament; New Zealand's rivals for the women's cup are England and Australia.

The decisions will be made at an FIH executive meeting in Lausanne on November 7.

Next year's World Cup is a joint operation in The Hague, however from 2018 the event has been split into two separate tournaments, and enlarged from 12 to 16 teams.

"We're looking to develop them as stand-alone properties.

"We think each has an attraction in its own right," Fairweather said.

The safe-pair-of-hands argument - such as that which was a strong part of Tokyo winning hosting rights for the 2020 Olympic Games recently - counts for plenty.

Sports organisations generally lean towards hosts who, having won the vote, don't need hands held right through to the delivery of an event.

The women's Black Sticks are ranked third in the world standings, the men are fifth - another plank in their case.

Australia are similarly placed to argue their case, being sixth in the women's rankings and second in the men's.

"This is one of the few countries that probably would pull both of those off without any problem at all," Fairweather said.

"There aren't many countries who can say they have an interest in both genders, but New Zealand is one of them."

Fairweather likes the bidding process and believes it adds a robust element to the method of awarding tournaments.

Fairweather, a South African who has done time at the IOC and Wada, is well steeped in the politics of sport.

A former junior international and high level coach, Fairweather believes the sport is well placed to make up ground he feels has been lost in recent years.

He cites rugby and cricket as sports which took advantage of a changing environment in embracing the professional era.

"I think we missed the boat to a large extent in the mid-90s.

"We've still got some catching up to do but we're quite confident we've got the foundations in place to get that up, so we're looking over the next two World Cup cycles (2015-2018, 2019-2022) to try and make an impact," he said.

Fairweather sees considerable potential in the Asia Pacific region.

He admitted hockey was guilty of "dropping the ball" around India and Pakistan, once powerhouses in the sport, having let them drift without providing sufficient support.

Fairweather believes three ingredients are necessary for a sport to prosper - its calendar, ensuring the event portfolio is well organised and having a large number of competitive countries.

It is important to have between 10-12 good quality nations. "We didn't have that. Now we're getting up to seven or eight, so we've got to kick that up".

The second edition of the Hockey India League starts in January.

This year's event was well received, and will increase from five to six franchises next year.

Fairweather would like to see more leagues developed - the top priority is a women's league - but done carefully. He is aware of cricket's problem with the proliferation of T20 leagues.

"We have to be careful this doesn't run away with us," he said.

''Cricket are seeing a bit of that challenge.

"If I had a crystal ball maybe hockey would have three or four leagues around the world in 10 years where players can earn a good living.

"But you've got to take it step by step."

- NZ Herald

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