In fact, field hockey has its roots in antiquity, with the first games believed to have been played in ancient Egypt around 4,000 years ago. The modern game finally emerged in England in the 18th century, and the rules were first codified in 1876. But while men’s hockey has been an Olympic fixture since 1928, women’s hockey only emerged on the global stage at the 1980 Moscow Games.
Phenomenal viewing figures
Since then, interest in women’s sport has continued to rise with this summer marking phenomenal viewing and attendance figures for women’s sport. The women’s football World Cup had five times more viewers in the US than men’s ice hockey. The women’s cricket World Cup produced higher viewing figures in the UK than for men’s football. Tickets for the women’s hockey World Cup next summer are already in danger of selling out.
Opportunities for watching top class women’s sport including hockey have never been better. And the corporate world is finally waking up to the opportunities that sponsorship of such fast growing and widely watched sport can offer. BT Sport has just agreed a two year deal with hockey’s governing body the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to broadcast the sport’s flagship events including the Euros, World Cup and World League hockey finals.
The World League is a showcase of where the woman’s sport is heading. Action packed and fast paced, teams from around the world get their opportunity to write their names in the history books. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the sport to continue to gain global recognition outside the Olympic cycle. Interestingly, in Britain at least, women’s hockey has a much higher profile than the men’s sport on the world stage, with women’s events taking precedence. Unfortunately, however, exposure, sponsorship and support don’t equate to earning a decent living. Where male hockey players can earn enormous salaries playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League, no comparable earning possibilities exist for women players.
Closing the gender gap
A regular schedule of world class hockey events is what the women’s sport needs to build a strong narrative that encourages sports fans to develop a deeper commitment and engagement with the sport on the global stage. And crucial to that is the development of ongoing partnerships between media partners that form the bridge between the sport and its corporate sponsors. In this way, stakeholders in the sport believe that the vicious commercial circle of poor media exposure and lack of sponsorship can be broken. Women’s hockey is certainly leading the way on the global sports stage.
Why? First and foremost because of the quality of the women’s game. Women’s hockey players have blazed a trail on the world stage, giving an explicit demonstration of what it means to be world class regardless of their gender. Equality may still be one of the biggest issues facing women in sport, but the relentless rise in popularity of women’s hockey has closed the performance gap if not yet the pay gap.
This article is written by Pro Hockey Direct. To know more about Pro Hockey Direct, visit prohockeydirect.com.