In order to make the Pro League more relevant and interesting for all the participating teams, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has decided to introduce the promotion and relegation system from the fourth season and make it a qualifying event for the World Cup and Olympics from the fifth season onwards.
At an online press briefing on Friday, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said the Pro League format was changed keeping in mind the players’ welfare and the financial burden on the national associations due to the long travel schedules of the teams.
The new format, to be staged in seven countries featuring 11 teams in both men's and women's leagues, has drifted from the home-and-away arrangement and has made the Pro League a bouquet of “mini-tournaments.”
According to Weil, the Pro League’s promotion and relegation system, along with the Hockey Nations Cup, would give some "real meaning" to the event and keep alive the interest of all the teams.
“From Season 4 (2022-23), the last teams of the Pro League will be relegated, and the first teams in the Nations Cup will be promoted. It has to be an open league,” said Weil.
“The Season 5 and 6 winners of the Pro League will directly qualify for the 2026 World Cup, and the winners of the next two editions (Season 7 and 8) will qualify for the (2028) Olympics,” said Weil, clarifying that the direct qualification for the elite events through continental championships would stay.
Weil said the FIH recently received a letter from Hockey India expressing its interest to revive the Hockey India League (HIL), and the two bodies would find out the best period for the HIL without interfering with other events on the international calendar.
Switching to the men’s World Cup in Odisha in January, Weil said that even though the construction of the venue at Rourkela was behind the schedule, work of the main stadium was expected to finish by the end of November, and a test event (before the World Cup) would be held sometime in December.
Weil said the transfer of the teams between the two World Cup venues would be smooth. “Both HI and Odisha (Government) have said that they will arrange chartered flights between Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, and it’s just a 10 minutes drive from the airport to the venue (in Rourkela).”
After the World Cup, Rourkela will be used for Pro League matches, said Weil.
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