In keeping with its efforts to attract the market and increase audience, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has decided to change the format of the game.
Coming into effect on September 1, international matches will now be 60-minute affairs, broken into four quarters of 15 minutes each. The 10-minute half-time break will be retained while there will be two-minute breaks after the first and third quarters.
According to the FIH, the change is to improve the flow and intensity. “With additional breaks, fans will have the opportunity to enjoy more replays and be more engaged while commentators will have more time to provide analysis,” FIH president Leandro Negre said in a release on Thursday.
The new rules mean organisers and broadcasters will have a chance to maximise revenue, both at the venue and on TV. Hockey India High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans admitted as much.
“I think it is good for the game since we know that, without commercial intervention, you cannot play professional sport anymore. And hockey is such a fast game, within normal play, there is no chance of a commercial,” Oltmans said.
Other changes include a 40-second time-out, after the award of a penalty corner and a goal, to ensure the new format is maximised for actual play. However, in case of a re-awarded penalty corner, teams will only get enough time to get back into position. The own-goal rule has already been scrapped by the FIH.
The time-outs, in particular, have been brought in to give the broadcasters more opportunities to generate profits while also allowing celebration time to the players after a goal.
Both Oltmans and chief coach Terry Walsh insisted that the changes would help top players stay on the pitch longer while giving them regular breaks. “It’s the first rule I have seen that has taken away some of the focus required; you can actually play comfortably (in short bursts) without an incredibly high level for long. But I am sure the coaches will force that up soon,” Walsh said after the team’s training session here.
The format, first introduced during the now-defunct Premier Hockey League in 2005, is currently used by the Hockey India League and the Euro Hockey League.