The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is likely to relax norms with regards to playing surfaces as they consider switching to back to grass, partially at least. In a report on the Indian Express, the FIH is looking at the viability of the move as they aim to make the sport inclusive and viable.
A tournament for second-rung teams, 2021 Hockey Series Open, is where the change of surface is likely to come into effect first, before being introduced in the 2024 Olympic qualifiers.
According to FIH CEO Thierry Weil, the decision, if implemented, will ‘allow far more countries to be a part of the Road to Paris’. Weil, though, made it clear that at the highest level, matches will continue to be played on the current synthetic surface.
All international matches are currently required to be played on certified artificial surfaces. Weil, a former marketing director of FIFA believes, it is the cost of putting things together with regards to the turf though has forced a lot of countries to stay away from the sport.
While it is not on the agenda for the FIH Congress that is being held in New Delhi on Saturday, the idea is expected to be discussed. “The idea we are considering is that Hockey Series Open 2021 can be played on any surface, including grass. Right now, a lot of countries are not being able to play because of lack of surfaces but we can be a lot more inclusive if we allow it,” Weil said.
“Any country in the world that’s willing to participate in it on a turf of their choice…be it in Latin America, Africa, Asia… if four or five countries decide to play on a turf of their choice, FIH will have no problem with it. That’s the vision,” Weil said.
“You just need a ball, a stick and two goal posts. In football, every girl and boy have a dream to play on the best pitches but 95 per cent play on surface that can be anything… concrete, mud. So it might not just be grass. Basically, any turf which is cheaper and equals to the level that we set,” Weil said.
The FIH is also concerned about the wastage of water and do not want to be seen as a sport that wastes water. Weil pointed out that making surfaces more sustainable is something the sport’s parent body is working on.
The Hockey Series Open which is scheduled to begin in 2021, will be at the bottom of the pyramid for Olympic qualification. The competitions under this banner are spread throughout the world, with the winner advancing to Hockey Series Final, of which India is currently a part of.