Hockey players lament scrapping of Champions Trophy

The Champions Trophy, which started as an annual affair in 1978 but turned into a biennial event from 2014, was one of the most prestigious events on the hockey calendar, next only to World Cup and the Olympics. (PTI File Photo)

The International Hockey Federation's decision to scrap the four-decade-old Champions Trophy has not gone down well with the purists of the game.

The Champions Trophy, which started as an annual affair in 1978 but turned into a biennial event from 2014, was one of the most prestigious events on the hockey calendar, next only to World Cup and the Olympics.

But the FIH, in its bid to market the sport and make it a constant feature on television, has decided to scrap the Champions Trophy and Hockey World League from next year. These two tournaments will be replaced by Hockey Pro League and Hockey Series, an Olympic qualifying event.

However, some big names of the game feel the decision to remove Champions Trophy might just might backfire.

"I thought it (Champions Trophy) was a good tournament. I liked the idea. May be every second year makes sense I am not sure why they make these decisions. I am not privy to them. Some of the decisions regarding the rules of the game I don't necessarily agree with," Charlesworth told PTI.

The Hockey Pro League will be played on a home-and-away basis and will run into four months of the year but Charlesworth is not sure about the financial viability of the tournament.

"I’m not sure how it (Pro League) will work. In Australia we have matches planned and it would be interesting to see what the following is. I am not sure its financial model will work. What will you do if you are an Australian team? You can’t go back and forth to Europe all the time," he said.

"I would have like to see an Indian Ocean league. You have an European league, you have international tournaments and I would like to see an Indian Ocean league which will counter balance the European league.

"Teams from India, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, also get Japan in if you want to. It makes more sense," he added.

The final edition of the Champions Trophy was held this year in The Breda, Netherlands for men and Changzhou, China for women. While Australia won the men’s competition defeating India, Netherlands claimed the women's crown.

Australia are the most successful team in the history of the men’s Champions Trophy with 15 titles.

And understandably, Australia coach Colin Batch doesn't subscribe to FIH’s thoughts, terming the move to scrap Champions Trophy a "shame".

"I think it's a shame that the Champions Trophy has gone. There are a lot of tournaments in world hockey these days and we can't play them all. But may be, one day it will comeback," he said.

"Champions Trophy has evolved over the years. I was involved as a player in the second edition and one stage there was only league matches and whoever finishes on the top was the winner of the tournament. But then later we added a final which was a nice step. It places a lot of importance on each game."

New Zealand coach Shane McLoed too is not sure about the success of Pro League.

"I am a bit of a traditionalist. I do like the Champions Trophy. I think it is the best of the best and every game is so important. I would love it to be on the calendar. The thing at the moment is that there is so much hockey. It is something we have to address," he said.

"Pro League we have to see what it brings to us. May be it will be fantastic, may be it will not turn out what we are thinking of. I think there is always room for two types of things – the Champions Trophy and Pro League of some format."

England coach Danny Kerry too feels the same but said at present there is no room for Champions Trophy in a packed international calendar.

"The Champions Trophy was one of the special tournaments but I understand with the Pro League with Olympic qualifications tournaments it is difficult to get a slot. I would like to see Champions Trophy comeback but I don’t see where it will fit.

"I also understand the television broadcasters want to see something going on regularly throughout the year. Pro League will maintain the interest in the sport. It’s a difficult situation," Kerry signed off. PTI SSC BS BS

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Hockey players lament scrapping of Champions Trophy

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