Reflecting on his first three months in charge, new International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Thierry Weil gives his first interview in which he reflects on his move from the world’s largest international sports federation, FIFA, to head of a sport that has been working hard to innovate and grow in recent years.
One of his first observations has been the passion that people within the FIH have for their sport. This, he considers, is both a blessing and challenge. He explains:“From the President to the Executive Board to the office staff, there is a passion for the sport that comes from lifelong involvement. For some people, they have been in hockey their entire lives and their parents were involved in the sport before them."
For Weil, this is somewhat at odds with the concept of a ‘Hockey Revolution’. “The term ‘revolution’ means dramatic change, so for me, as an outsider, a revolution within the sport is an exciting prospect but it’s not easy to implement because the passion for the sport makes it difficult to introduce too much radical change.”
“The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches.”
Thierry Weil, FIH CEO
But being an outsider and a newcomer to the sport has its advantages. “I can ask stupid questions or have crazy ideas that would actually fit in with the idea of a . They are the questions that those within the sport would never dream of asking. It means I can have conversations that at least will open people’s minds to new ideas.”
For Weil, the three words that drew him to the role of CEO were “FIH Pro League”, and his views on this are outlined in the second part of this interview to be published shortly. However, not surprisingly for someone brought up in the world of football, while the FIH Pro League is a thrilling initiative, it is the World Cup that remains the number one event.
“I see the World Cup as the pinnacle. It is the biggest event. The Olympics is also big but the World Cup is an FIH event and so must be the top. And it has so much commercial value – two World Cup events in a year is great commercially as well as for the sport’s profile.”
Reflecting on the Hockey Revolution, how dramatic will it be under its new leader?
“The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches,” says Weil. “I think that the way to increase the popularity of the game is to make it simple to play and easy to understand.”
Weil cites two areas, aside from the FIH Pro League and the Hockey Series, in which the game can grow commercially: the development and spread of the short-form version of the game, and the introduction of exhibition matches in cities, so that people can just turn up and watch the sport as they are walking around town.
These initiatives will help increase the fan base and participation rates, which in turn will have a positive knock-on effect on FIH’s ability to find commercial partners. To back up these ambitions, in 2018 and 2019 FIH will invest more than ever in its dynamic broadcast and content strategy, with the aim of raising the quality of coverage. This will include features that will help spectators understand the game better.
Three months in and Weil is a huge fan of the sport. He says hockey has great potential to grow, develop and lead the way in innovation. At its heart is the fact that it is both a team sport and a sport that is enjoyed and played equally by men and women, of all ages and ability.
“Hockey has already taken a big step forwards over the past few years,” says Weil, and, while it might not be a revolution in the strictest sense of the word, he is excited to be leading hockey into the brave new world of commercial sport.
To find out more about the Hockey Revolution, .