A quiet revolution is happening in SA hockey

2010-06-17 00:00

WHILE the Fifa World Cup is proving South Africa has the energy and will to solve the country’s social ills — those unglamorous issues — if it just puts its mind to it, the South African hockey world is showing signs that a quiet revolution is also taking place in one of the country’s popular, yet Cinderella, sports.

I say popular because within a three-kilometre radius in the KZN capital alone you have seven synthetic hockey turfs with a capital outlay in excess of R25 million.

However, there are some dark clouds still surrounding SA hockey, among them the problems associated with South Africa’s entry into the Africa qualifiers for next year’s Indoor Hockey World Cup in Poland, in which so many of KZN Inland and indeed KZN Coastal players are due to represent their country. There are other issues surrounding the continuing, now endemic, lack of finance, which is by and large bedevilling the sport in its genuine attempts to surge to the next level.

One national body with a minute percentage of players compared to this country has Lotto for all those interested in the game and it is making a significant contribution to that country’s progress.

The Irish Hockey Association have a monthly jackpot in their online lotto as well as a facility for a lucky dip winner, giving all those entered an opportunity to cash in for a nominal entry fee.

Now why don’t the SA Hockey Association consider a similar initiative in the interests of raising money for the sport? Indeed, provincial bodies like KZN Inland Hockey Association could do the same. What’s R10 a month for hockey children and maybe R20 for students and R40 for adults? Is it really going to harm those entered financially? By and large, no — and the thousands of entrants (it is estimated that there are roughly 100 000 players in the country at all levels) will make a difference.

Another initiative has contributed to making the sport sexier — a big issue nowadays in an era of entertainment sport where Twenty20 cricket, sevens rugby, among others, have caught the imagination.

In a nutshell, Western Province Hockey held a tournament over several weeks whereby, for example, the El Pizza Restaurant (fictitious names in this article, obviously) and SuperCellPhone financed teams.

SuperCellPhone Sizzlers met El Pizza Pizzazz under lights every week with centralised fixtures and pub-and-grub at the side of the pitch providing the drawcard for fans.

The key was to select the best, say, 90 players — 45 men and 45 women — in six teams in franchise manner with an emphasis on equal strength playing in their sponsors’ brand new strip.

By all accounts the initiative has been a great success. Plans are afoot by sponsors to increase their stake, and there are plans to take this model, which is based on business principles, to the other big hockey centres in SA.

It bears repeating that this isn’t verbatim what WP are doing, but the basic principles can be deduced from this illustration.

There is so much that has been done — and so much still to do — but this cannot be driven by amateurs or hockey part-timers.

Like Jack Thonissen is doing in Cape Town, it’s a business proposition with lots of spin-offs relating to his hockey retail business. It’s a win-win situation for all.

To borrow another well-worn cliché that has rightly stood the test of time because of its inherent common sense: SA hockey have got to think out of the box and embrace the modern era if they are to go further.

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