Hockey Ramblings #01

Sunset view from my Airbnb in Albania

It’s a couple of days before Christmas and I am sitting in a beachfront Airbnb in Sarandë, Albania. It is a pleasant 13 degrees. And despite my girlfriend’s protests, it’s comfortable enough to leave the balcony door open. Blue sky and sun are not in short supply, I can hear the waves gently lapping against the shore. I would describe it as a near-perfect situation.

Despite these idyllic surroundings, there is one problem. This country has no hockey.

None.

There is a small field hockey following, but that is mainly played by children. There is no capacity for spectators.

 

As a hockey fan, there is a feeling of FOMO creeping in. Between the 22nd of December and the end of the year, there are 25 games in the National League alone. Add in the Elite League, and the regional divisions and you are missing out on a serious amount of hockey.

 

One of the very few things that we can be thankful to the COVID-19 pandemic for, is the advances in online streaming. Despite the varying levels of quality, most teams now provide access to their home games online. This is only a good thing for the sport, making the sport accessible for all. That said, social media is chock full of comments from fans complaining about poor customer service, particularly when trying to get a refund for faulty streams. This is something that needs to be ironed out. Stream quality and customer service aren’t necessarily the biggest problems. The real issue is far more obvious.

 

Cost.

 

The NIHL National League has an average stream cost of £15 a game. On a game-by-game basis, this presents a good deal. This comes in slightly under the average cost of an adult ticket after all. That said, when you dig deeper into this, there surely is more that could be done to make the streaming offer a more competitive package.

 

Small things such as improvements to the “virtual match experience,” such as pre-recorded interviews with coaches, owners, and players. These could be played before the match was due to begin to set the scene for the game. Another idea could be to offer a virtual programme, available via a PDF file. This would also increase the circulation of any existing physical programmes, potentially allowing teams to sell more advertising space. With fans from all over the country buying streams, this could also open the door for national-level sponsorship.     

 

Another suggestion that will take far more cooperation than is perhaps possible, is a monthly subscription model. With fans paying a fee for unlimited access to all games within the league structure. While we may struggle to see teams get involved with this, in the long term, it could be seen as a good opportunity to develop the sport and the National League in particular.

 

Keen hockey fans who have season tickets for home games but don’t visit away rinks could certainly be tempted to sign up for a service such as this, giving them an affordable way to follow their team as they travel around the country.          

 

Without a shadow of a doubt, this idea comes with a huge element of naivety on my part. Trying to get various hockey teams to agree to this project would be extremely difficult. Very important questions on how the income should be divided, who should pay for the initial start-up costs and how to manage maintenance, all slow the project down greatly.

 

Not forgetting the survivalist nature of UK hockey, meaning that clubs have no choice but to focus on themselves to ensure survival. But despite these issues, the concept does present an opportunity to grow the sport, bringing it to a larger market.

  

If you have any ideas on how to improve UK hockey, particularly when it comes to streaming, I would love to hear them! Drop a comment below!

Want my hockey newsletter?

1 thought on “Hockey Ramblings #01”

  1. Great ideas Michael but EIHL or whatever their brand name is this week can’t sort themselves out, so little chance of them doing anything to help improve the sport.
    The league covering the games for a subscription would be amazing especially if there was some sort of ‘stream quality’ in force…. but TBH ? Its not going to happen unless the Nat Lge came under a more progressive governing body. There are some great teams with great ideas and sets of fans..and i have found a real sense of family in the National…unifying the streaming would be excellent for those who cant always afford the high costs of travel and indeed their time…… would also be good if clubs could pay a fee to show the matches in their club bars…a minimum charge at door to cover the cost and club makes money in ‘ takings’.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *