India to face Pakistan consistently in Pro Hockey League

India and Pakistan men’s teams would face-off on a consistent basis, at least on the hockey field, come 2019. This became possible after both teams made the cut for the new Home-and-Away League after the final line-up was announced by the FIH on Sunday.

India, or any other team for that matter, would not travel to Pakistan, however, with the latter deciding to play its ‘home’ matches in Scotland.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

India and Pakistan men’s teams would face-off on a consistent basis, at least on the hockey field, come 2019. This became possible after both teams made the cut for the new Home-and-Away League after the final line-up was announced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Sunday.

India, or any other team for that matter, would not travel to Pakistan, however, with the latter deciding to play its ‘home’ matches in Scotland. Scotland agreed to host Pakistan’s games after taking into consideration sizeable Pakistani population there and interest in the game there, according to the FIH.

To be called the Hockey Pro League and beginning in January 2019, the competition would see 144 matches played over a period of six months each for the next four years and would be one of the qualifying events for major competitions in this period, including the Olympics and the World Cup.

The Pro League would have nine teams each in both men and women’s categories with each team playing the other eight in a double round-robin format at home and away, culminating in a grand finale at the end of the four year period between the top four teams. Matches would be played over weekends from January to June. This also marks the formal end of the road for both the elite Champions Trophy and the Hockey World League that started as an experiment only 2012. The first two rounds of the HWL would, however, continue to exist but in a revised format.

“The FIH Executive Board met in Lausanne on Sunday to finalise the teams and other details. The 18 teams are spread out across 11 countries and include almost all the big names in international hockey”, FIH CEO Jason McCracken said.

Seven countries have managed to make the cut in both men’s and women’s categories and there are no surprises there—these include Argentina, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, India and England.

In addition, Belgium and Pakistan have been included among the men while USA and China have been included among the women. England’s participation would change depending on whether it’s an Olympic year or not, when the team would be called Great Britain.

While the teams are free to choose their home base, they can host matches across more than one venue to ensure maximum outreach for the competition. All the teams would be assured of being part of the Pro League for at least four years.

The teams that failed to qualify included Ireland, Malaysia and Spain among the men while Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Spain applications were rejected among the women.

According to the FIH, the Executive Board’s decision was based on recommendations from the FIH Event Portfolio Implementation Panel (EPIP) tasked with assessing each of the candidate applications against defined participation criteria that included financial sustainability, marketing strategies, team performance history and prior event hosting experience.

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