Following four very successful years as Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Hockey Association, Angus Kirkland became the new Director General of the European Hockey Federation in October.
The 41-year-old stepped into the void left by R. David Balbirnie, who retired from the position of EHF Hon. General Secretary in March of last year after 20 years of sterling service.
FIH.CH caught up with Angus to find out about his first three months in charge, the priorities of the EHF in 2013 and his days on the professional squash circuit.
FIH.CH: Hi Angus, thanks for talking to FIH.CH. You have been in the European Hockey Federation hot seat for just over three months now. How are you settling in?
Angus Kirkland: “I started in the middle of October and I am now fully engaged with European Hockey. It is a very diverse and interesting organisation and I have really enjoyed getting to understand the business better and working with the Executive Board, staff and volunteers from all over Europe.”
FIH.CH: So, are you living in Brussels currently?
AK: “No, my wife and three children are in Dublin so I am commuting in on Monday morning and out Wednesday evening, while working from my home office on Thursdays and Fridays. Obviously there are times when there are meetings or tournaments to attend, and that means being in different places at different times. It means being a bit more organised, but so far it is working out well and Brussels is a wonderful city.”
FIH.CH: You joined EHF after four very positive years as Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Hockey Association. Although the role with EHF was clearly an opportunity not to be missed, there must have been an element of sadness about leaving the IHA.
AK: “Absolutely. I was very happy at the IHA and overall I had a good experience there. The staff and volunteers were great to work with. The organisation is continuing to strive towards Olympic qualification, which is something I know would give a massive boost to the sport there. However, as with most jobs in hockey, this one was passed to me to put on the IHA website. It really was an opportunity that I felt I should at least have a shot at and I was thrilled to be offered the position.”
FIH.CH: Four out of the six medals won at the London 2012 Olympic Hockey tournament went to teams from Europe. To the outsider, it would seem that European Hockey is in pretty good shape currently.
AK: “Yes at the elite level European Hockey is very strong. However, past success is not guarantee of future success, which is perhaps one of the joys of sport. The top countries will obviously be striving to sustain and improve their performances and results. The teams just outside the top group are also fighting hard and this competitive environment will raise the overall level. The EHF provides a lot of competitions for all its nations and clubs, roughly 35 a year from senior through to under 16 both outdoor and indoor. This is good for the profile and interest in the game, helping to improve the standards of not just of players but also the umpires, coaches and officials.”
FIH.CH: What would you say are the top priorities for the EHF going into 2013?
AK: “Our core business is events and it is important that we continue to make it attractive to host and compete in them. In the current European economic climate many countries are facing stiffer than normal challenges and we have to be aware that this does not weaken us. We will continue to look to keep raising the profile of the game through our communication channels and trying to use technology to support this. You will have seen that shortly before Christmas we launched our Mobile App, which is another channel for Hockey fans to connect with the EHF.
“We see our relationship with the FIH as very important. There are many opportunities to work together in a more combined fashion for the benefit of the sport, and I look forward to exploring further.
“We will continue our Development and Education projects which look to support National Associations. We will also aim to increase both the numbers and standards of umpiring, coaching and officiating. In addition, we want to inspire and encourage the younger generation to be a part of our organisation.”
FIH.CH: Finally, we understand that you were quite a handy squash player in your younger days. Tell us more!
AK: “When I was young I played on the Professional Squash Association tour for a number of years, competing in tournaments around the world. The training was tough, but I really enjoyed competing and reached 19 in the World Rankings. These days I try and play once a week which I enjoy even if I can’t move like I used to!”
To learn more about Angus Kirkland, please click here.
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