Hockey is no exception. It has been affected as badly by coronavirus as are other games and the rest of the world. After frequent cancellations and postponements, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has decided to extend the second season of the FIH Pro League until June next year meaning thereby there may either be no season 3 or it would not start until the end of delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
After the postponement of all games scheduled to be played in China, Australia, and New Zealand were the first to say no to sending their teams to other parts of the world because of the corona pandemic. It ultimately forced the FIH to postpone all games till May this year.
A statement issued by the FIH today said: Due to ongoing uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 global health pandemic, and in agreement with the 11 participating National Associations (NAs), the second edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League is being extended through to June 2021, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has announced.
Season 2 of the FIH Hockey Pro League – the annual global League involving the world’s best international teams, both men and women – was initially set to run from January to June 2020. Around one-third of the planned matches were completed between January and early March, before the escalating COVID-19 crisis brought the competition, like almost all major sporting events around the world, to a standstill. Throughout this time of postponement, FIH has been liaising with all participating NAs in order to assess this ever-changing situation, the aim being to restart the playing of matches only when it is safe to do so, putting athletes welfare at the forefront of the decision-making process.
Taking into account both the latest recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the recent announcement regarding the one-year postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, it was universally agreed that extending Season 2 into the middle of 2021 was the appropriate course of action, giving the best possible chance for this edition of the competition to be completed whilst enabling FIH and all NAs to deliver on broadcast and commercial partner agreements.
FIH will continue to closely monitor the global evolution of the COVID-19 situation and, with the safety of athletes and fans being a top priority, any potential dates regarding the resumption of the competition will be announced at the appropriate time.
As part of the continuing evolution of the competition and in agreement with all participating NAs, FIH can also announce that the window for Season 3 of the FIH Hockey Pro League will be from September 2021 to June 2022. The decision to spread the Pro League season over a longer time period will allow for greater flexibility in terms of the scheduling, reducing match congestion in the first half of the year whilst also helping to ensure that international hockey remains highly visible via broadcast for much of the year.
Speaking about the decisions, FIH Chief Executive Officer Thierry Weil said: “With the world facing a health crisis like nothing in living memory, predicting a date for when the current competition will restart is almost impossible at this time. Despite the difficult circumstances, these wholly necessary discussions between FIH and the participating National Associations were both positive and constructive. We all believe we have found the correct path forward regarding the current edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League, giving ourselves additional time to play the matches whilst also relieving pressure on both the athletes and the calendar for 2021.
“Looking ahead to the remainder of the 2020-21 Season and beyond, the changes that will be introduced for Season 3 are another significant step in the evolution of this fantastic competition. The honest and open dialogue that we have with our NAs enables us to mold the FIH Hockey Pro League in a way that works for all, and I want to place on record my personal thanks to all everyone for their efforts to find a workable solution.”