One Two Hockey Viewpoint February 2009


This is not a philosophical discussion about the state of the World – it’s about sport and hockey in particular! The vexing question of rich nations and poor nations and the continuum that ties them has occupied the minds of many of the world’s great economists probably from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman.

It has been high on the agenda in international affairs and in recent times Gordon Brown amongst many others has taken up the cudgels and made it clear that the wealthy nations need to assist poorer nations for many sound socio‐economic, political and environmental reasons. Recently Al Gore, Bono and others at the forefront of the environmental crusade have also made it abundantly clear that if rich and poor nations do not work together the legacy of our generation could be the destruction of our fragile world. So what does this really have to do with hockey?

Well the debate of rich nations or National Federations and their place in the World of Hockey relative to poor nations has been discussed ad infinitum. The same discussion bounces down to National level – rich provinces, states or districts relative to their poor brothers. Also rich clubs/poor clubs, rich schools/poor schools. There are many who believe the rich are becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer and the gulf is widening.

In a hockey context it is often exacerbated by the fact that the poor countries have to travel vast distances at great expense to compete. The richer nations especially in Europe can compete or attend congresses, seminars, courses and meetings very cost‐effectively and more conveniently.

The question of an equalization fund has been debated and whether because of the socialist implications or sheer headaches of the mechanics/implementation, the matter keeps being removed from the Agenda. The Olympic Movement and its responsible members and International Federations have launched many initiatives to assist in the development of sport. In a hockey context the FIH has intensified efforts to create new members and support developing hockey nations.

Working in tandem with the IOC, Olympic Solidarity and other agencies, tremendous support has been given to many emergent hockey nations. Ghana is a good example in Africa. But still it seems that the vicious circle of poverty, sometimes compounded by political upheaval, economic recession and even natural disasters often erodes the positive efforts. Callous observers say no self‐respecting business would invest money in businesses or branches that are not making a profit or showing positive returns, so concentrate only on the areas of success. I don’t believe that you can apply the business model to sports organizations or social welfare programmes. Those that seek to are callous and would consign the poor, even the basket cases, to a tragic future.

So, if we have some social responsibility we have to look constructively at bridging the gap. Rich Nations or provinces or clubs or schools should adopt their poorer counterparts. Work hand in hand on an agreed course of action. The IOC and International Federations continue to implement programmes based on specific criteria which are realistic and deliverable. Key performance indicators are crucial. SMART goals (SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC TIMEBOUND) are vital otherwise the lack of discipline and direction will result in a waste of time and money.

As I have said before, you need charismatic and dynamic leadership and a sustainable structure in the institution receiving the aid/assistance to ensure success. In many Hockey Associations or Federations this should be a formal portfolio lead by an inspirational and determined person. The bottom line is that the Hockey World can only benefit from such initiatives if planned properly. Islands of excellence and wealth in seas of mediocrity and poverty are not a sustainable model for the growth of any organization. The richness, diversity and general prosperity of the International Hockey Federation or even National Associations or Federations can only be enhanced by these carefully planned and rational initiatives. We turn our backs on poor nations or institutions at our own peril.

The time to act is now!!

Steve Jaspan

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