An open letter from the England Hockey CEO, Nick Pink
Happy New Year - I hope you had a great break over the festive season and are as eager as I am to get back on the hockey pitch.
I’m thrilled to kick off the new year with exciting news – the January Olympic Qualifiers will be broadcast live on BBC Sport. You can catch all the action from 13 - 21 January as the GB men's games unfold in Muscat, Oman, and the GB women's games light up Valencia, Spain, accessible through the red button, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website. This presents a golden opportunity for hockey to showcase its brilliance and establish our game as deserving of future free-to-air opportunities.
In September 2023, we unveiled our ambitious five-year organisational strategy with a mission to elevate hockey's visibility, relevance, and accessibility for all. This broadcast marks a significant milestone in achieving that mission. We are determined to ensure our international matches captivate larger and more diverse audiences and inspire fans and players of the future.
However, we need your help to make this a reality.
It's important to reflect on the context of how sports are chosen on BBC Sport and what it means for hockey. Success is based on viewership thresholds, with the current benchmark set at an average of 50,000 viewers for more than 15 minutes. It has been a few years since hockey graced a free-to-air channel outside of a multisport event and previously we have fallen short of this BBC Sport threshold by some way.
Another point to note is while some sports such as football and rugby thrive in this space, Olympic sports like ours struggle due to escalating rights fees and dwindling broadcast budgets. Last November, BBC Director of Sport Barbara Slater highlighted the challenges, stating that "TV rights for blue riband events such as the Six Nations have more than doubled in the past decade, yet the corporation’s budget has gone down by 30% in real terms" (The Guardian).
Despite these factors, BBC Sport and the FIH have generously provided us with this golden opportunity for the future of our game, and we extend our gratitude to them for their invaluable collaboration and support to make this a reality.
So how can you help?
In the coming days, you'll witness our relentless promotion of this event through press and social media coverage. While media coverage is crucial, your voices hold enormous power. We appeal to every hockey enthusiast to passionately share their love for the game with friends, family, teammates, and those outside the sport. We need you to help us to amplify this incredible chance to enhance the visibility, relevance, and accessibility of hockey. Spread the news, tune in to watch the games, and join me in cheering on our GB teams whether at home, at work or at your club.
Stay connected with our Great Britain Hockey social media channels for updates, and you can find all fixtures and news on the GB Hockey website too.
On behalf of all players, fans, and the future players at all levels who will be inspired by our GB teams, thank you for your support. Enjoy the thrilling hockey ahead and good luck with the second half of your seasons!
England Hockey CEO