(Photo: © FIH / Stanislas Brochier)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The FIH today took a critical step in developing its next major competition after sending out letters of invitation to teams wishing to participate in the FIH World League.

The FIH World League is set to make its debut in 2012 and will give every member of the FIH the opportunity to play for a place in the FIH World Cup or the Olympic Games. During the 2012-2013 period, the World League will qualify four teams directly into the 2014 FIH World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

“We are delighted to be moving ahead with the World League competition,” said FIH Chief Executive Officer Kelly Fairweather. “We have long wanted to start an international competition that goes over multiple rounds and gives every nation a change to reach our elite events. With the World League, we have just that.”

The FIH World League, which has also previously been referred to as the World Series, will be played in four rounds. The first two rounds will take place in the 2012 calendar year, while the third and fourth rounds will conclude the cycle in 2013. The event will include men and women’s teams.

Teams have until April 1st, 2011 to confirm their participation in the FIH World League.

The men’s and women’s teams ranked first through eighth in the FIH World Ranking will receive an automatic bye to Round Three. Teams ranked in the next tier, 9th-16th will get an automatic ticket to Round Two. FIH World Ranking points will be awarded at each level. The details of the points will be announced at a later date.

The number of First Round tournaments will depend entirely on the number of entries received by the FIH. This makes the World League unique in that every nation has a chance to join the road to the World Cup and/or Olympics.

“It has long been the ambition of the FIH to give every country a chance to make it to the highest possible level,” said Fairweather. “The World League gives the smaller nations valuable international experience, while allowing them to have the chance to play the role of David against some of the Goliath countries.”

It is expected that the first round of competition will be kept as local as possible to keep travel costs to a minimum. To this end, FIH will be working closely with its five Continental Federations to organize these tournaments. Those teams making it to Round Two will join the 9th-16th ranked nations in a more regional event that may include teams from varying continents.

At the end of Round Two, eight teams will move onto Round Three to join the top eight teams that are automatically qualified. The third round will then be played in two groups of eight.

Finally in 2013, the champion will be crowned in a final round. The number of teams qualified will be determined by if the host made it through the qualification process.

While the host nations for the first two rounds have yet to be determined, those for Rounds Three and Four were already decided by the FIH Executive Board. They are:

Men’s                                                     Women’s
3A Pakistan (Feb. 2013)                      The Netherlands (June 2013)
3B Germany (June 2013)                     China (June 2013)
4 India (September 2013)                    Argentina (December 2013)


According to the current FIH World Ranking, the following teams would receive the byes through the Rounds Two or Three:


Men’s teams ranked 1 – 8 (bye to Round 3)
Australia, Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, Korea, New Zealand and Pakistan

Men’s teams ranked 9 – 16 (bye to Round 2)
India, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, China, Malaysia and Japan 
 
Women’s teams ranked 1 – 8 (bye to Round 3)
Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, China, England, Australia, New Zealand and Korea

Women’s teams ranked 9 – 16 (bye to Round 2)
Japan, Spain, India, South Africa, USA, Azerbaijan, Ireland and Chile