Exclusive; FIH to introduce second tier Pro League

The success of the FIH Pro League is the catalyst for the International Hockey Federation to further expand the tournament.

Happy with the response from teams and Hockey fans throughout the world, the International Hockey Federation is now exploring the idea of adding a second division to the existing Pro League.

There are currently eight teams in the Pro League ( as Pakistan withdrew) but with India joining in for the 2020 edition, there will be nine teams in the second edition.

“ We are now looking at the possibility of having a second level of competition for the next level of ranked teams,” revealed FIH President Dr.Narinder Dhruv Batra in an exclusive interview during his brief visit to Kuala Lumpur with FIH CEO Thierry Weil yesterday,

“ There will be promotion and relegation of teams between these two tiers of the Pro Leagues.”

The proposal is set to be deliberated further by the FIH at its Executive Board Meeting in June.

The present competition sees the teams playing a home and away format which means they have to play a total of 14 matches.

“ We studied the effects and realised it put a tremendous strain on the players with all the travelling as the teams are spread in all continents,” explained Thierry.

“ So from next year we have reduced the number of matches to just eight for each team.

“ We realise that there is a need to give other teams an opportunity to also be part of the Pro League.

“ Hence we need to discuss this further and expand the Pro League so as to enable the second tier competition to commence in 2021,”

And this will surely be a big boost for Malaysia and other teams from Asia.

Within the next bracket of world ranked teams, there are five Asian teams, namely Malaysia. Pakistan, China, Japan and South Korea.

“ Starting it in 2020 might be tough as we need to give adequate notice to the affected teams?” explained Thierry.

“ But unlike the Pro League, there will not be home and away matches as we are looking at holding it at a single venue.

“ So we need to work out several details like the hosts as well as other matters such as TV rights and marketing of the event before we get around to holding it.”

But FIH did not rule out staring it in 2020 should there be a positive response from the teams.

For those who followed hockey, there was such a tournament where there was promotion and relegation – the champions trophy and champions challenge.

And prior to that there was also the intercontinental cup that used to serve as qualifiers for the World Cup.

With the revamp of the ranking system and the innovative idea of hosting a second tier Pro League, this will surely provide a tremendous boost and reduce the gap between the teams in the top 10 bracket and the rest.

And the key word will be consistency from the teams as from January next year with the revamped Pro League, the result of every sanctioned match will be crucial in determining ranking points and eventually if the teams make the grade for the second tier Pro League.

Exciting times ahead for international Hockey as FIH take the bold step to be innovative and being forward thinking towards uplifting the standard of the sport globally,