Spain men, Belgian women replace India in Hockey Pro League

The two teams were approved as the first reserves earlier in June and their inclusion in the HPL was confirmed by the FIH Executive Board in Lausanne on Thursday.

After India's withdrawal due to an unfavourable format, the Spanish men will be up against Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England/Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and Pakistan.   -  Getty

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Friday confirmed the inclusion of Spain men and Belgium women as replacements for India in the Hockey Pro League set to take off in January 2019.

The two teams were approved as the first reserves earlier in June and their inclusion in the HPL was confirmed by the FIH Executive Board in Lausanne on Thursday.

Interestingly, the teams attended the first-ever Hockey Pro League Workshop, from July 17-19 – making their confirmation a mere formality. The workshop saw the nine participating teams, both men and women, discuss scheduling, league management and other operational details.

The new nine-team global event is set to not just be a qualifying event for the Olympics and World Cup qualifiers but is also expected to be the major revenue source for the FIH. Extending from January to June every year in the initial four-year cycle, the HPL would see all teams play each other on home-and-away basis, over weekends, in a total of 144 one-off matches. The top four teams would qualify for the grand finale every year.

Hockey India had pulled out of the competition earlier this month citing the format to be unfavourable for its women's team and claimed there was no scope for continuing with only the men in the fray. FIH had, however, later said there was no both-or-none rule in the application process.

The men's competition would include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England/Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand Pakistan and Spain while the women's event would see participation from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, China, England/Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA.