It’s been eight months since Jason McCracken took charge as the CEO of the International Hockey Federation and the biggest event in his brief tenure has been the launch of the Hockey Pro League, a nine-team international event.
The Pro League sounds exciting but the biggest concern is what happens to domestic leagues.
We are in talks with national associations and clubs in Europe and other countries to work out the details of the European Hockey League. Hockey India has been a strong supporter of the Pro League and we have had discussions with them as well. As of now, what has been worked on is that while some of the nations will postpone their domestic leagues, others will be able to work out windows and slots in the six-month period during which the Pro League will be held.
Also, we have to remember that the national squad size is normally around 32, so that’s the number of players who would be associated with the Pro League. This means there will be more opportunities for other players to figure in domestic leagues.
Hockey India CEO Elena Norman confirmed to The Hindu that while the HIL would continue to be held in January-February till 2018, it would be moved to November-December in 2019, when the Pro League would kick off.
The European Leagues, meanwhile, would look to work their schedule simultaneously around the Pro League even as Norman asserted that the HIL would retain a window on the international calendar.
How will the top-four teams for the Pro League Grand Finale at the end of the four-year period be decided?
Let me clear the confusion. There is no single Grand Finale after four years. The Pro League is an annual event, with a finale involving the top four teams decided on points accumulated every year at the end. So there will be a Pro League winner every year. When we said four-year period, it was to emphasise that this was a long-term project and not a short-term experiment and that the nine teams listed for the competition would be part of it for the entire four-year period.
How will the Pro League work as a qualifying event for World Cups and the Olympics?
The top four teams that qualify for the finale will qualify for the Qualifying event of the World Cups/Olympics. Continental champions continue to get direct entry. We are also looking to rework the world rankings system to incorporate the new tournament and also ensure that it is fair to everyone.