FIH announces new Olympic and WC qualifying events

Hockey Series is set to replace Hockey World League, the erstwhile qualifying competition that existed for four years.

Hockey Series is set to replace Hockey World League, the erstwhile qualifying competition that existed for four years.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It's not just the sport of hockey that keeps changing its rules; even the tournament structure is overhauled every few years, becoming more confusing and complicated with every change. The latest is the launch of what the International Hockey Federation (FIH) calls the Hockey Series, as one of the ways to qualify for Olympics 2020 and future World Cups starting 2022.

The competition would replace the Hockey World League, the erstwhile qualifying competition that existed for four years as an experiment with few takers. It would provide a qualifying route apart from the elite Hockey Pro League (HPL) and the continental events. For India, not part of the HPL, it would be the only way for the team to book a ticket for Tokyo if it fails to triumph at the Asian Games.

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The tournament would be divided into Hockey Series Open and Hockey Series Finals — similar to the first and last two stages of HWL respectively — and would be played over the preceding two years of an Olympics or World Cup, culminating in a series of Olympic/World Cup Qualifiers.

The Open competition would be continental, open to all countries not part of the HPL, and varying in the number of participants.

Fifteen teams would advance from the several Open events — there could be more, the details haven't been finlaised yet — to be held between June-September 2018, for three Finals events and would be joined by the top nine nations as per World Rankings not part of the HPL. Each of the Finals – to be held between May-June 2019 -- would have eight teams. The finalists from each — six teams in all — would then be joined by the top four nations from the HPL and the next two highest-ranked nations.

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The 12 teams — in both men and women — would compete for six Olympic spots. The remaining six would go to the five continental champions and host Japan. If all that sounds confusing, there is more — the 12 teams would not play in a single qualifier but six different Qualification Events, each featuring two nations playing two back-to-back matches.

The draws would be based on team rankings at the end of all the continental championships with the team scoring the highest aggregate score over the two games qualifying!

“We have been working with a large number of stakeholders for a number of years to create a portfolio of events that will help grow the sport at all levels. For emerging nations, the Hockey Series Open will provide a challenging and inspirational environment,” new FIH CEO Thierry Weil said.

Senior Hockey India officials admitted it would be one of the ways for India to qualify but added that with all the participating teams and venues yet to be confirmed, it would be difficult to have a fair idea about the exact way ahead. “But it will not be required if we do win the Asian Games, which is what we are targetting,” they said.