Success could come at a price

Peter Brown, Banbridge
Peter Brown, Banbridge

Next month the Irish team head off to India for the second round of the World League, with a high expectancy that they will qualify to the next round.

However, with that comes a double edged sword. As not only do we want to see Ireland qualify but the third round will involve an expensive trip to Malaysia.

Paul Gleghorne in action against Russia

Paul Gleghorne in action against Russia

And if, and it is a possibility, they reach the final round, then they are off to Argentina. However, there is also the added bonus, that should they reach the World League 4 stage, they will also book an automatic ticket to the 2014 World Cup.

On top of all that, there is also the matter of the Euro Championships in Belgium this August.

So, how are the IHA going to fund all this? We know their funds are already under strain and success doesn’t come cheap in today’s modern game.

Unlike the English hockey association, which has just received a shot in the arm of £27.5 million in funding from Sport England and UK Sport, for the next four years. Irish hockey will be lucky if it receives 5% of that.

So what is to be done? They (the IHA) can not go back and call on the generosity of the Irish hockey fraternity, that card has been used once and it would be doubtful if it could be played again.

The IHA need to act quickly, in the past sponsorship was relatively easy to attract, but those days have gone.

Active sponsors are key to the success of high performing teams, but there is a chronic shortfall of sponsors and one thing is for certain, they (the sponsors) will not come knocking on the IHA’s door.

A sponsorship strategy has to put in place soon, if not immediately. There is a need to attract external sponsorship and why is it only the women’s Irish hockey team that has sponsorship branding. Surely the men can attract a lucrative sponsorship deal and that is only for starters.

It is not just hockey which is suffering, all sport is suffering and fighting for sponsorship. But if the strategy is robust, then it will work.

The IHA must be clear about what it is offering in return, it can no longer be one-way. Sponsors want to know what they are getting from the relationship.

These relationships need nurtured and be constantly developed and become partnerships.

If the Irish international players are going to live up to their half of the bargain by bringing success, then the IHA must live up to its half and support the team.

No one is questioning that they do not support the teams. Yes it is hard work bringing in funding and sponsorship. But if Irish hockey is to grow and not stagnate, the effort must be put in upfront before the results off the pitch will be seen.

A comment was requested from the IHA but no-one was available at the time of going to press.