As the London Olympics passed its one-year anniversary this summer, with it came much discussion over the impact and the hopeful effect of the oft-cited ‘Olympic Legacy.’ It now seems that UK Sport’s monumental and committed investment in the future of British sport is having a significant benefit to British hockey, as the International Hockey Federation has now selected England as hosts for the women’s World Cup in 2018.
To receive the successful bid from national governing body, England Hockey impressively held off a rival proposal from New Zealand, one of the international leaders in the sport. This will be the first time England will have ever hosted the women’s World Cup, marking a historic moment for a competition founded back in 1974.
The welcomed announcement comes as fantastic news to England Hockey, who has experienced incredibly profound success under the UK Sport’s Gold Event Series, a scheme dedicated to investing a benevolent £27 million of National Lottery funding into helping the bidding and staging of major sporting events up to 2019. Under this campaign, England Hockey has achieved unprecedented success in their optimistic bidding applications, also being confirmed hosts for the 2015 EuroHockey Championships and the Women’s Champions Event in 2016, all of which are ushering in an exciting new era for the sport as part of the London 2012 legacy.
These tournaments will be hosted at the purpose built Lee Valley Hockey Centre in London, constructed as part of the continual investment and future building taking place over the next few years.
England Hockey’s Chief Executive Sally Munday hailed the International Hockey Federation’s decision, describing the announcement as being “such fantastic news for our sport to have back-to-back events hosted in this country,” believing that staging these world level events will undoubtedly help “raise the profile of hockey and deliver a lasting legacy of participation.”
Munday’s reaction to the announcement has also been mirrored by England Hockey Chairman Philip Kimberley who said that the English hockey board is “absolutely thrilled” at the news, citing the decision as being vital for the organization as it looks to “build our momentum and increase the visibility of our sport.”
And this building of momentum is unquestionably the case, with the team’s success at international tournaments already at a consistently excellent level. The women’s English hockey side have achieved medal positions at every Commonwealth Games since 1998, including bronze in 2006 and 2010 and silver in 1998 and the 2002 games in Manchester. Also, the side has finished in the top 3 positions at the EuroHockey Championships every year since 2005, achieving second place most recently in Belgium this summer. The team also took bronze at the women’s Hockey World Cup in 2010 and of course won bronze in front of a fully attended and ecstatic home crowd at the Olympics last year.
With the women’s England side currently ranked at an admirable 4th place in the World rankings, there is a growing sense that with this investment and international focus the team can make tremendous progress over the next decade. One of the nation’s natural aspirations is to become world leaders in the sport by overtaking Netherlands, Argentina and New Zealand who occupy 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The hope is that the resulting consequence of the impending staging of hockey’s biggest and most prestigious events will raise awareness of the sport on a national level, encouraging more young people to take up hockey and truly establish the Olympic legacy.
This crescendo of optimism is reflected in Phillip Kimberly’s comments who feels that England “have an excellent track record of driving interest and participation through major events, and hosting world-level events of such significance means we can continue our sustained effort to get more people playing and watching our sport, and in particular deliver a legacy of female participation in hockey.”
So with hockey experiencing phenomenal success under the Gold Event’s Series, the future is looking incredibly bright for the sport on a national and global scale. Increased investment and coverage into British hockey such as this will hopefully further improve participation levels in both the women’s and men’s game, significantly attributing to the promisingly propitious Olympic legacy.
Over the coming years England will be hosting the following competitions:
- Investec London Cup 2014
- EuroHockey 2015
- Women’s Champions Trophy 2016
- Men’s World League Round 3 2017
- Women’s World Cup 2018
With the UK Sport Gold Event’s Series so successfully aiding England Hockey in their bidding applications, how do you feel being the host nation of two major hockey events will inspire young people to pick up a hockey stick?