Is world hockey following the traditional political argument of the "have and have nots", thereby creating a "gap" between the powerful hockey nations and the weak hockey nations. Honestly i do not believe that it had been planned in such a way, but strangely if you read this article, one cannot but speculate to such a conclusion.
I must commend Maninderjit Singh for this work. Mike has appropriately titled his article:
FIH WORLD RANKING AND QUOTA SYSTEM FOR QUALIFICATION
“Benefit and Burden Rule is Not Equitable” - FOR ASIAN TEAMS INCLUDING MALAYSIAN HOCKEY TEAM
My view is that FIH system is not equitable to the five Continental Federations that are affiliated to the International Hockey Federation (FIH); the world governing body for hockey. The impact of this system has reflected in the reducing number of Asian teams participating in the major events such as Olympics, World Cup and Champions Trophy.
Firstly, in the early 1970’s, the transformation of field hockey to artificial turf was introduced. This has permitted new rules to be developed in order to suit the new playing surface conditions. On top of that, the artificial pitches were too expensive for Asian in comparison to the wealthier European countries. All such issues have hindered the growth of Asian hockey standards in international arena. As of today, most of the European nations have dominated the game of hockey and we only have two teams from Asia in the top ten world ranking.
Secondly, after 30 years from the transformation of surface, the introduction of World ranking system in the 2003 by the FIH Executive Board has created major obstacles for Asian teams including Malaysian Hockey Team to qualify for World Cup and Olympics. This is because the current world ranking system is further used to determine quotas and reserve countries for major events such as Olympics, World Cup and etc.
The keynote facts of the current World Ranking system are as follows:
- Only five tournaments are taken into account.
§ Olympics (including qualifier)
§ World Cup (including qualifier)
§ Champions Trophy
§ Champions Challenge 1 & 2
§ Continental Federation Championships including qualifier.
- Ranking system taken over a 4-year cycle on teams performance with progressively less weighted year by year (25% discount per year over a 4-year until they are deleted).
- Champions Trophy is played on annual basis whereas the Champion Challenge1 & 2 is played once in every two years.
Based on the current FIH system, I have observed 3 main prevailing issues that hinder the growth of Asian Teams including Malaysian Hockey Team. They are as follows:
- The 4-year cycle system creates a great discrepancy between the top 6, top 12 and top 18 in the world ranking. By participating in World Cup and Olympics would provide them to sustain their ranking throughout the 4 years. They are entitled to collect a maximum of 250% of the points earned throughout the 4-year cycle i.e. 100% for first year, 75% for second year, 50% for third year and 25% for the fourth year.
- More often than not, the top 6 teams who plays in Champion Trophy on annual basis permits them to improve their ranking annually, whereas the teams rank from 7th to 18th plays once in every two years in the Champion Challenge 1 & 2. The team ranked above 18th has only their Continental Federation Championship to improve their ranking.
- Continental Federation Championship points are allocated and adjusted based on the Europe Hockey Federation points. For an example, a number 7 ranked team in Europe gets 450 points whereas in Asia is 182.3 points, Africa is 36 points, Oceania is 24.8 and Pan America is 166.5. Over and above this has an impact over the 4-year cycle system. The reason provided was the different standard and quality of playing nations among the Continents.
The following quotas were allocated to the five (5) Continents for the FIH 2010 World Cup based on the current World ranking:
To have an equitable system for World Ranking system and Quotas for World Cup and Olympics, I would like to recommend five strategies. They are as follows:
1. Reduce to 2-years cycle instead of 4-years cycle. The World Cup and Olympic events are separated by two years. For an example, the next 2010 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics and in which every two years, the qualified teams either in Olympics or World Cup could only collect a maximum of 150% of points earned i.e.100% of points for the first year and 50% deduction for the second year.
2. Total of 16 teams for the World Cup and 12 teams for Olympics. As for the World Cup which is under the jurisdiction of FIH, shall permit more teams to qualify and indirectly has a greater chance to improve their world ranking.
3. Champions Trophy and Champions Challenge 1 & 2 to be played once in every two years. This tournament shall be held once between the 2-years cycle. For an example: after 2010 World Cup, the Champions Trophy and Champions Challenge 1 & 2 shall be organize in the year 2011. The next competition for both events shall be held in the year 2013 after the 2012 London Olympics. Therefore, it permits new qualified teams to participate and redeem points.
4. Organize a Mini World Cup for the teams ranked from number 17 to 32. With this additional tournament, the under ranked teams has a chance to reduce the discrepancy gap between the rich and the poor. A separate ranking point system shall be formulated for the purpose of this tournament.
5. The Quotas for the Qualifying Round for the World Cup and Olympics shall be based on the individual Continental Federations ranking and not based on World Ranking system. With this, the old fashioned Inter-Continental Championship shall make his return to justifiable the quota system based on the five (5) Continental Federations. This shall also ensure a great equality among the world playing nations.
By understanding the system and looking at the allocation of quotas, the future for Asian team including Malaysian Hockey Team has an uphill battle to qualify for the coming World Cup and Olympics. This is due to the “Benefit and Burden Rule is Not Equitable” in the FIH World Ranking System. Therefore, it is my fervent hope that all the five (5) Continental Federations and the Executive Board of FIH to revisit and review the system for the betterment and equality of all playing nations.
It is strange to note that only three (3) members out of twenty four (24) members are from Asia in the FIH Executive Board. It only denotes 12.5% of the decision making. Therefore, it is going to be difficult to convince the FIH Executive Board unless the relevant Continental Federations intend to work hand in hand to remedy and push the changes accordingly within their means.
All the Best…
Maninderjit Singh (Mike)
Former Malaysian Hockey International
(1990 to 2002)