The FIH renege on a signed contract and attempt to silence the media
Most people will be familiar with Jack Nicholson’s performance in “A Few Good Men” in which he utters the famous line, “You can’t handle the truth.”
While in the film Nicholson uses the line to justify behavior that led to the death of another man, when it comes to hockey the line could be taken literally.
As first featured in Hockey World News Edition 19 – The voice of English-born Australian Ashley Morrison has become one that is linked to the sport over the past ten years. However it appears that it will rarely be heard in the future.
Morrison has been involved in the media for over 30 years and for nine and a half years had a radio show in Perth entitled Not The Footy Show, and linked to that show a blog. Both have garnered a healthy following. When the radio station shut it’s doors Morrison opted to keep the show going as a podcast. Not The Footy Show is about all sport and shows Morrison’s depth of knowledge not just on athletes and events but also governance issues.
Rubbed up the wrong way
Some of his articles have clearly rubbed the Hockey establishment up the wrong way.
In July 2017 he broke the news that the Hockey India League would not be resuming in 2018. A story that cost him dearly. With contracts signed for him to once again commentate what ended up being the last Hockey World League Finals with Star Sports, he alleges that someone at the FIH stepped in and told the broadcaster that they could not use him. Incredibly the management at the broadcaster caved in to the request.
Now it appears that he is being shut out completely. One FIH staffer claiming that those at the top have proclaimed that he will “commentate hockey again over their dead body.”
In 2019 when the FIH launched its flagship FIH Pro League Morrison was the voice of the matches in Australia and New Zealand. As the tournament headed towards its conclusion in June he was booked by the FIH to commentate matches in Europe including the finals.
With flights booked to Europe and a roster in his possession he then received a phone call late one evening in Perth telling him that he would no longer be used.
“It was 10pm on a Monday night when I received a phone call telling me that I was no longer required. I asked what the reason was, and was told ‘there is no money.’ There was no request for me to negotiate or take a cut, I was simply told that there was no money.” Morrison advised. “With this news coming so late it was nigh on impossible for me to find other work in June, I asked what compensation they were offering in lieu of booking me, and me blocking off that time, and them now cancelling. I said I would be happy to take work over money.”
“The person I spoke to did not seem too keen to make such an offer, and so I gave them a deadline. I received an email almost three weeks later offering me the opportunity to commentate the Hockey Series Finals in India. The email stated that this was ‘to recognise your professionalism and dedication to FIH.’ Then once I accepted their offer I was sent a 15 page commentary agreement to sign. There were clauses within this agreement that I had issues with and so consulted my lawyer, who assisted me with suggested changes to key clauses. One clause in particular that was a concern to me, being a freelance sports journalist, stated that I could not write anything about the FIH, a National Association or any player for a period of 12 months!”
“The India offer was then withdrawn because I would not sign the contract, but I was waiting on them to respond in relation to the proposed changes we had requested. I am still waiting. I was told that if I did not sign it as it was I could not work, yet others have not signed it and continue to work.”
The email requesting the changes was sent on 19th April 2019. As yet Morrison has had no follow up from the FIH on trying to resolve the issue.
Meeting Face to Face
Morrison flew to Europe as he had paid for his flight already. He also attended the Finals in Amsterdam. During that time he met with the then head of Broadcast Chris Neilson to try and resolve the situation.
“Chris was very personable and said that he was unaware of a many of the issues, he said that he was not aware that I had been taken off the Indian tournament and promised to resolve everything. He then went on holiday and when he returned suddenly stopped responding to emails and phone calls, so my lawyer took over. They failed to have any response from the FIH from March 2020 until January 2021.”
So why would the FIH not wish to resolve such an issue? Here is one person who clearly is an asset to the game, and cares about it, and has the courage to raise issues. Is it that those at the top of the FIH are so precious that they cannot cope with justified criticism, that they can’t handle the truth?
Surely you would want to work through such an issue and resolve it to the benefit of both parties for the good of the sport?
Or is Morrison another victim of behavior that is unfortunately becoming all too familiar for those dealing with the FIH?
The Olympic Charter
The FIH lists in its statues in section 1.4 that the fundamental purposes of the FIH are: to promote and develop Hockey at all levels throughout the world, in accordance with the rights and freedoms of the Olympic Charter, and without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;”
Surely by trying to gag a member of the media they are going against those statutes and also’ the rights and freedoms of the Olympic Charter?’
Sport, and hockey especially need people to stimulate conversation. The sport also needs good commentary. It, therefore, makes little sense to ostracize someone who clearly cares and promotes the game, even if they have differing opinions to the administrators.
The Follow up
Since going to press in Hockey World News Edition 19, we have received a response from the FIH, and in particular, CEO Thierry Weil, that reads:
Having read the article “You can’t handle the truth” published in the latest issue of Hockey World News, I have the following comments:
- It is highly regrettable – to say the least – that the subtitle of the article mentions “a signed contract”. The truth is the exact opposite: there did not exist any binding agreement between Ashley Morrison and FIH to commentate FIH Hockey Pro League matches in Europe in June 2019.
- Ashley Morrison has never been “shut out”, contrary to what is claimed in this article. The decision to no longer require Ashley Morrison to commentate the FIH Hockey Pro League matches in June 2019 was taken purely on the basis of an amended strategy for the newly-launched FIH Hockey Pro League. Indeed, as a responsible organisation, it is our duty to amend the course and shape of our events whenever necessary. A thorough analysis indicated that adjustments to the FIH Hockey Pro League were necessary in terms of operations and budget, in particular for TV-related matters. It was a difficult decision for FIH. Ashley Morrison’s expertise and passion for hockey is renowned globally. We do understand his frustration. However, the reasons are those explained above.
- The suggestion made on the cover of the magazine, in the subtitle of the article as well as in the last sentence that FIH attempts to silence the media or ostracizes people who have different opinions is groundless and pure nonsense! We’re engaging with anybody, including any reporter or blogger, even though we might have different views on some topics. Indeed, we believe in dialogue and explanation, not in closing our eyes to issues or “silencing the media”. We have numerous examples of that, but just to give you one: Ashley Morrison was one of the few reporters invited by FIH to attend a media roundtable with myself in Amsterdam in June 2019 …
Where is the truth?
It is sad to say, after receiving the above response for Thierry Weil, CEO-FIH, there were a number of emails sent back and forth between Hockey World News and the FIH to iron out the inaccuracies of the above statement, which have been proven factually incorrect. Further documents and files will be released in due course. And of course, if any response from the FIH is received, then that too will be posted immediately.