Pro League: SA Hockey Administration Again Break Hearts of Their Players

After a thorough analysis, the South African Hockey Association has decided not to join the FIH Hockey Men’s Pro League for the next season, despite having qualified for it, thanks to winning the inaugural FIH Hockey Nations Cup played on its own soil in Potchefstroom, last year. However, the South African Hockey Association has confirmed its firm intention to join the League – ‘Hockey at its Best’ – in the future, provided their teams, women or men, qualify for it on the field of play, of course.

Just two months ago the South African Hockey Federation were celebrating their team’s success in winning the Nations Cup and qualifying for the FIH Pro League, posting on social media “FIH Pro League 2023, here we come!”. Now we hear that with no consultation with the players and coaches, they have decided to withdraw the side from the Pro League.

“We represented our country to the best of our ability, won the damn thing, and nknow get told after a decision has already been made that ‘we’ withdrew! [This will] set our team back tremendously and undo the hardwork and sacrifice by our team (players, management and volunteers).”

Keenan Horne – after being told that the South Africa Hockey Federation has withdrawn them from the Pro League

As a result, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has invited the Nations Cup runners-up, Ireland, to join the FIH Hockey Pro League in 2023-24, and the “Green Machine” – Ireland’s men’s team nickname – has accepted.

Commenting on the announcement, Hockey Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy said : “This announcement comes at a very exciting time for Hockey Ireland as we look to grow participation in the game and compete at the highest level on the international stage. The fact that our Senior Men are now competing in World Hockey’s Pro League against eight top Hockey teams from around the world is a testament to all the hard work to date. It’s a very busy year ahead for the team and the EuroHockey Championships in Abbotstown in July will be the perfect opportunity for fans to come along and watch them in full international action.”

Mark Tumilty, Ireland Men’s Head Coach can’t wait to get started in the FIH Hockey Pro League: “We are delighted this has come about. It’s a big opportunity for us and for men’s hockey in Ireland. It’s a massive challenge for us but I’ve said many times before that for Ireland to move forward in world hockey we need to be playing competitive games against the top nations. To have to chance now to play sixteen games against the top countries in the world gives us that opportunity to develop. It’s what we need and it’s a big carrot for the players.”

“The SA Hockey Association (SAHA) is extremely saddened by the fact that they will not be attending the FIH Hockey Pro League season (2023-2024) despite us qualifying at the inaugural Men’s Nations Cup. The magnificent progress in our team performance is a direct result of our participation in the previous Pro League season. As a federation we will forever be grateful for the opportunity afforded to us to participate at that level. It will be sorely missed, especially as it would have assisted our team with their preparation for Paris 2024. We wish Hockey Ireland and all the other teams all the very best for the FIH Hockey Pro League season (2023-2024)”, SAHA interim CEO Shaune Baaitjies commented.

“Whilst we will miss South Africa in the next season, we know that the South African Hockey Association firmly intends to join the FIH Hockey Pro League as soon as possible. Therefore, this is just a matter of time. Meanwhile, we’re absolutely delighted to welcome the Irish men’s team and we can’t wait to see them perform in the League next season!”, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said.

The upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League season (2023-24) will be the first one applying the “promotion and relegation” principle. In concrete terms, the winners of the inaugural FIH Hockey Nations Cup played in 2022 (India for women, South Africa – now replaced by Ireland – for men) have been promoted. Both teams will take the place of the teams relegated (one women’s team and one men’s team) at the end of the current season.

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