Hockey: British game needs radical rethink

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The Independent Online

The prospects for British hockey's future rest on three meetings in the next seven days. Roger Self, the new president of Great Britain Hockey, chairs his first official meeting at Bisham Abbey today. They will have in front of them a hard-hitting report submitted by an independent review group.

The prospects for British hockey's future rest on three meetings in the next seven days. Roger Self, the new president of Great Britain Hockey, chairs his first official meeting at Bisham Abbey today. They will have in front of them a hard-hitting report submitted by an independent review group.

The report will then be submitted to the Sport England National Investment Panel and on Friday to the Sport England board. The report, commissioned in the light of a lack of top-level success for British hockey and, in particular, the disappointments of the Athens Olympics, recognises that success will not come without fundamental change to the structures, roles and relationships between Great Britain and the home countries' national governing bodies.

The report recommends that the pursuit of Olympic success should have primacy: only British teams with access to high-intensity play over the four-year cycle will meet the competitive needs of an Olympic programme. It envisages a permanent performance directorate, and recommends that teams should be entered for the European Championship as well as the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the Olympics.

It is clear that the funding bodies who in recent years have invested over £25m in hockey are losing patience with the lack of success and only a radical rethink is likely to keep worthwhile amounts of money being made available.

With Scotland having already voted unanimously to maintain the status quo and Wales having given only qualified support to giving up their World Cup representation at world level events, a lot of hard talking is going to be necessary to implement the report's proposals and secure funding. While England had agreed to give up their national rights above European level it remains to be seen if they will drop a step lower.

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