The International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced the launch of an FIH World League in 2012 involving all the top countries and has sent out invitations to its members.
The FIH World League is set to make its debut in 2012 and will give every member of the FIH the opportunity to play for a place in the World Cup or the Olympic Games, an official release said.
During the 2012-13 period, the World League will qualify four teams directly into the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, the Netherlands.
“We are delighted to be moving ahead with the World League competition, said FIH chief executive officer Kelly Fairweather. We have long wanted to start an international competition that goes over multiple rounds and gives every nation a chance to reach our elite events. With the World League, we have just that.”
The FIH World League, which has also previously been referred to as the World Series, will be played in four rounds. The first two rounds will take place in the 2012 calendar year, while the third and fourth rounds will conclude the cycle in 2013. The event will include men and women’s teams.
Teams have until April 1, 2011, to confirm their participation in the FIH World League, the release added.
The men and women’s team ranked first through eighth in the FIH World Ranking will receive an automatic bye to round three. Teams ranked in the next tier, 9-16 positions will get an automatic ticket to tound two. FIH World Ranking points will be awarded at each level. The details of the points will be announced at a later date.
The number of first round tournaments will depend entirely on the number of entries received by the FIH. This makes the World League unique in that every nation has a chance to join the road to the World Cup and/or Olympics, the release said.
“It has long been the ambition of the FIH to give every country a chance to make it to the highest possible level,” said Fairweather. “The World League gives the smaller nations valuable international experience, while allowing them to have the chance to play the role of David against some of the Goliath countries.”
Those teams making it to second round will join the 9-16 ranked nations in a more regional event that may include teams from varying continents.
Eight teams will move into the third round to join the top eight teams that are automatically qualified. The third round will then be played in two groups of eight.
Finally, in 2013, the champion will be crowned in a final round.
They are: men: Pakistan (Feb. 2013), Germany (June 2013), India (September 2013). Women: The Netherlands (June 2013), China (June 2013) and Argentina (December 2013).
According to the current FIH World Ranking, the following teams would receive the byes through the second round:
Men(1-8 ranked, bye to Round 3): Australia, Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, Korea, New Zealand and Pakistan. 9-16 (bye to Round 3): India, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, China, Malaysia and Japan.
Women (1-8): Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, China, England, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. Ranked 1-9: Japan, Spain, India, South Africa, USA, Azerbaijan, Ireland and Chile.
For Ireland, this means the women’s side, currently ranked 15th, will get a bye to round two, but the men’s side (18th) will begin their campaign in the first round. The number of first round tournaments will depend entirely on the number of entries received by the FIH.
The new format ostensibly makes their task harder in terms of qualifying for major tournaments. Where they previously could hope to shock the bigger European teams at a one-off tournament, they will now have to defeat higher-ranked nations on a more consistent basis .