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Hockey reboots with format change

FIH reduces playing time and brings in quarter-system to make the game more engaging and TV-friendly.

Mumbai | Updated: March 21, 2014 4:14:41 pm
The Indian team trains at the Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi ahead of their tour of the Netherlands (Photo: Hockey India) The Indian team trains at the Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi ahead of their tour of the Netherlands (Photo: Hockey India)

Hockey’s international body reduced the playing time of matches from 70 to 60 minutes, in a move triggered to accentuate commercial interests but one that could also have far-reaching impact on the tactical aspects of the game.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has decided to do away with the traditional format of two 35-minute halves for a more television-friendly format that will have four quarters of 15 minutes each. The FIH’s executive board also announced that there will be a 40-second break after every penalty corner awarded and each goal scored to ensure that the 60 minutes is maximized for actual play.

The new regulations will be applied in a few of the major upcoming tournaments: the Champions Trophy (which will be held in Odisha this December), World League Round 2, World League semifinal and final, all continental Olympic qualifying events as of September 1 this year as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Earlier experiments

The quarter format was first experimented in India almost a decade ago for the Premier Hockey League. It has since been applied for various competitions such as the World Series Hockey, Hockey India League and also the Euro League. The FIH said since the model was tried and tested in these events, they have implemented the new rules directly for the major events. Several other sports such as basketball, American football, netball and even ice-hockey follow the quarter system and the FIH hopes it will help in engaging the viewers better.

After the first and third quarters, each team will have a two-minute break, while the existing 10-minute half time will remain unchanged. The FIH said by introducing the supplementary 40-second time-out rule, it will eliminate time wasting tactics employed by the teams during penalty corner set up and also let the teams enjoy their goal celebrations.

“In the case of a re-awarded penalty corner, time will be immediately stopped but the teams will not be allowed an additional 40 seconds, only enough time to get back into position,” the FIH said in a statement.

“If a team takes longer than the 40 seconds to get set for the initial penalty corner, the guilty player will be given a green card and therefore a two-minute suspension. If the defending goal keeper is the guilty player, the umpire will award a green card to another player in the defensive corner unit.”

Hockey nearly fell out of the Olympic-fold last year for not being innovative enough and its inability to engage a wider audience. The sport’s world governing body, however, has not shied away from experimenting with new rules and formats.

Olympian MM Somaya said the actual match time may not be affected due to the new rules but insisted the pace of the game will increase. “The game will probably be faster. It may not be of advantage or disadvantage to India or any other team in particular. The teams who adapt to the quarter system quickly will have an advantage,” Somaya said.

Former India coach Harendra Singh said the responsibility of coaches will be bigger than before. Harendra, who has guided debutants CAG to the semifinals of the ongoing national championships, also pointed out that the new format should be implemented in the domestic circuit soon.

“It’s an outstanding opportunity to rework and rethink strategies. The coaches will have more time to analyze the proceedings on field more closely and will also have more opportunities to make more tactical changes, almost every 15 minutes,” he said.

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