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Money matters: Would hockey benefit from more funding?

Hockey is one of the oldest national sports that was born in the UK. Along with football and rugby, which has taken over the world in a dramatic fashion over the last few decades, hockey has been a bit slower in its world domination. Is the lack of funding and sponsorship in the game quashing its chances to thrive, even today?

After sifting through the hockey news of the day I discovered that Beeston reigned supreme in a thrilling 1-1 (3-1 on shuttle) finals of the NOW: Pensions Premier League. What struck me was the winners cheque at the end, a mere £2,500. Not to sound ungrateful and pompous in any way, but for a national sport, the very highest standard of hockey that can be played in a league here in the UK and the winning club only gets that much? It seems unimaginable when the back pages of mainstream media is smothered in athletes salary updates, winners prizes in tennis and footballers dollar dramas, yet hockey funding is a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to the money that run British sport.

Let’s take the Grand National for example. For winning one race, that jockey is rewarded with a staggering one million pound cheque. All because of tradition and the rich sponsoring the sport, I get it, but where’s the balance? It would take Wayne Rooney, on his monstrous salary of £15.61million a year, only 83 minutes to earn £2,500. It really is flabbergasting stuff when the sport you love and adore isn’t growing as quickly due to be overshadowed by mainstream, money driven theatricals.

In 2012 Sport England ran a survey on adults who participated at least once a week (30 minutes minimum) in a sport and hockey saw a huge increase. 30,000 more people were participating in hockey compared to previous years pushing the total of participants over 100,000.

sport-england-participation

Even though hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1908, I whole heartedly believe that London 2012 has done wonders for the sport and in raising awareness both at grass roots level and beyond. Hockey is on the rise, but it desperately needs more media support and funding to push it on further to inspire and motivate members of society of all ages, from primary school children to pensioners to get involved in one of the most dramatic sports that’s ever been.

Post London Olympic the government has laid out a lovely Olympic Legacy programme to engage, promote and encourage people to take on a sport and make it a habit for life.  Jeremy Hunt has even written a lovely report outlining it’s ideals and objectives in an aptly name document titled: ‘Creating a Sporting Habit For Life’.  On one hand I whole heartedly admire it’s ethos and motives, but it’s lacking some realism.  Although it’s primarily focusing on sport in England, I believe that it’s encouraging sport teams and organisations around the UK as a whole to undergo a participation drive to develop their clubs and teams and forge links with schools to feed their clubs with the future.  However, the sport that have primary focus are Football, Cricket, Rugby Union, Rugby League and Tennis, thus leaving hockey by the wayside even though it’s just as British as the aforementioned sports above.

Another little problem I’ve uncovered in this ‘transparent’ is the issuing of funding to governing bodies of sport that deal with youth that are the main participants.  Take a look at the below:

Working with the sports governing bodies: focusing on youth
– we will ask those sports governing bodies, where young people are the main participants, to spend around 60 per cent of their funding on activities that promote sport as a habit for life amongst young people. We will ensure that sports are completely focused on what they have to achieve, with payment by results – including the withdrawal of funding from governing bodies that fail to deliver agreed objectives. The system will be wholly transparent.

So, in basic terms, if you don’t hit your targets, you don’t get your funding, which in turn will decrease the sport’s popularity, which will attract less people and so on and so on.  Diversity and variety is imperative in our community and culture, therefore giving sport such as hockey more of a positive monetary incentive as opposed to ‘not hitting target’ punishment would be more beneficial and would encourage volunteers, clubs, teams and anyone else involved in a sport to engage with newcomers and introduce them into a sport they will make a habit for life.

For the likes of hockey enthusiasts who play consistently, train, organise, coach and manage, hockey is more than just the game, but a part of their life that’s truly rewarding. Having more incredible role models on show through the media would be a great advert of exceptional athleticism and sport psychology at its best. I have faith that hockey will grow from strength to strength and continue to capitalise on the Olympic movement and encourage men and women alike to pick up a stick and immerse themselves in the wonders of hockey.  Although much of the hockey movement we’re all a part of is fuelled by passion for the sport and is at a fantastic level now, could you just imagine what it could be like with a bit more endorsement?  Over 600,000 tickets for the Hockey at the Olympics were sold for a reason.

I just hope the financial aspect will increase too. More coverage will lead to more play which will lead to more sponsorship – let’s break the catch 22.

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