FIH Congress Preview: President visits Dubai school ahead of Congress

Among other matters, the Congress will discuss its ongoing ‘Hockey Revolution’ strategy while Dubai will hope the event can boost the sport’s popularity in the UAE and across the region, as Gruffudd Owen reports

International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre visited Kent College Dubai on Tuesday to see a hockey pitch being built ahead of the 45th FIH Congress, which takes place at the city’s Intercontinental Hotel this year.

The visit, which was facilitated by Falcon and Associates, was one of Mr Negre’s final appearances as head of the sport’s governing body, with a new president due to be elected by the federation at the Congress this week.

A key aspect of the event – entitled ‘Hockey Revolution 2: No Limits’ – will be the continuation of the original ‘Hockey Revolution’ launched during the 2014 edition in Morocco.

Leandro Negre and Vice-Principal Chris Starling met on the hockey pitch of Kent College Dubai, which is currently under construction

The purpose of this ten-year strategy is to see hockey develop into ‘a global game that inspires the next generation’.

Two years on from its launch, and the figures make for promising reading. There are now 132 national hockey associations worldwide, 20 short of the 152 target the FIH hopes to reach by 2024.

More than 211 million people tuned in to watch the 2016 Champions Trophy in June, while 16 million viewers in Great Britain and the Netherlands alone watched the two countries compete in the women’s final at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Progress has certainly been made since the unveiling of the strategy in Morocco, although there is still work to be done if the FIH is to meet all its targets in the next eight years.

Leandro Negre met with Chris Starling and Emma Kirkpatrick of Kent College Dubai, in a visit facilitated by Falcon and Associates (Pictured: Executive Director Rt Hon Sir Hugh Robertson KCMG DL and COO Alastair Ruxton)

That is the task at hand for the new FIH president, who will be elected on the final day of Congress.

There are a total of three candidates on the presidential ballot: David Balbirnie, Secretary General of Irish Hockey who has played a large part in Ireland’s rise up the world rankings; Dr Narinder Batra, president of Hockey India who has overseen a similar resurgence in his own country’s performances; and Ken Read, a former Australian international and the current chair of the Tasmania Hockey Board.

The FIH Executive Board will also hold a meeting ahead of the Congress, which will be attended by senior Dubai partners and facilitated by Falcon and Associates. At least four Ordinary Members will then be appointed to the Executive Board during the Congress.

Negre toured the Kent College Dubai facilities in one of his final appearances as head of the sport’s governing body

The six-day event represents a boon to the sport’s profile in the UAE.

Speaking after the FIH made the announcement to bring the Congress to the city, UAE Hockey Federation president Ismail Ali Abdulla Al Banna said: “There is huge potential to grow the sport of hockey in the United Arab Emirates and across the Middle East region.

“As a global sports family, we all have a responsibility to secure the future of the sport and the FIH Congress provides an ideal platform to do just that.”

And with Mr Negre witnessing first-hand Dubai’s commitment to developing the sport at Kent College on Tuesday, it seems hockey is certainly going places in the city.