The legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games is evident across many sports but where hockey is concerned the legacy is being taken to the next level with the upcoming Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup London 2018.
With 16 of the best teams in the world descending upon England's capital city this summer, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will once again become the global hub of hockey, with crowds of hockey lovers cheering themselves hoarse as their teams battle for the title of World Cup winners.
Tickets for England games sold out very quickly, and with less than 100 days to go, tickets for non-England sessions are also proving very popular, particularly at weekends.
At London 2012, the beauty of the hockey event at the Riverbank Arena was the way the crowds got behind every team, no matter who was playing.
As Maddie Hinch said in a recent interview with FIH: “The thought of playing in front of 15,000 people, the majority of whom are supporting England, sends a shot of adrenaline through me.”
In London six years ago, teams from across the globe received the same adulatory reception. As a member of the hockey media team at the time said: “It didn’t matter who was playing, the entire crowd cheered everyone with huge enthusiasm.” But for England Hockey CEO Sally Munday and her team, it was about more than packed stadiums.
“International success drives the visibility of the sport, which in turn fuels a growth in participation. As more people take up the sport, so more talent is discovered."
Sally Munday, England Hockey CEO
The Olympics provided the opportunity to build a hockey legacy for the future and the canny CEO grabbed that opportunity with both hands. “It presented a virtuous circle,” says Munday, “international success drives the visibility of the sport, which in turn fuels a growth in participation. As more people take up the sport, so more talent is discovered. For hockey to really secure its future, it had to appeal to the masses and deliver on the pitch.”
To maximise its appeal to the masses, England Hockey launched its Five Week Frenzy, a period of five weeks before, during and after the Olympics where clubs across the country hosted turn up and play activities.
Raising the profile of hockey at a time when all the Olympic sports were after public support was a tricky ask but the Big Dribble ensured plenty of media coverage as players, former players, members of the public and celebrities all took a turn at dribbling a giant hockey ball around the UK, including up a few mountains.
England Hockey also secured unique rights to hold engagement events on the Olympic Park before the Olympic Games started, including a media photoshoot featuring athletes and the Princess of Cambridge.
During the Games themselves and including the test events, 630,000 spectators watched hockey.
Volunteers were on hand to take spectators details and signpost them to their nearest hockey club. And this furore of activity has paid off.
There has been a huge growth in numbers of people plating hockey in the UK since 2011. Take just one age group as an example: the 8-13 year-old age group has seen a 85% increase in numbers.
But England Hockey are not an organisation who will rest on their laurels. Beverley Blackburn is Participation Programmes Project Manager and, as she explains, the bar just keeps rising. “We have a target to double the number of people participating in hockey by 2027. The ‘Your World Cup Campaign’ is based around attracting new people as well as engaging with our current participating base. It encompasses all of the different ways to play and all the audiences we hope to appeal to under one campaign banner linked to the Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup. We have a number of strategies and targets and we are working with clubs and schools to deliver on these.”
For Munday, the opportunities to drive interest in hockey to new levels is crystal clear. “The Vitality Hockey Women’s Hockey World Cup is another fantastic opportunity for us to drive interest in the sport. Our clubs from all over the country have been amazing engaging with us to maximise this opportunity to increase the profile of hockey and give more and different opportunities to play.
This summer there is going to be more hockey than ever taking place. There are so many ways to get involved – Back to Hockey, walking hockey, summer play nights, flyerz (sessions specially designed for people with disabilities), have-a-go sessions, beach hockey, traditional league hockey, workshops to become coaches or officials.
You name it, our clubs are offering it. The Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup will be another catalyst for further growth and profile for hockey in our country.”
Tickets for the Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup London 2018 are still available. .