Indians deserving winners, but global hockey community will be involved in future Awards: FIH CEO Thierry Weil
New Delhi, October 12, 2021
Admitting that the Hockey Stars Awards have created an unwarranted controversy, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Monday said that it will work on the future awards with the global hockey community and will engage with many stakeholders to come up with a process that receives the support of most, and then go with it for next year.
The controversy erupted with India sweeping the FIH annual awards claiming all top honours based on a voting system that was criticised as a "failure" by Olympic champion Belgium.
"These awards are here to promote hockey, athletes, and coaches. It isn’t good for anybody if they lead to controversy. I’ve already engaged with a few and will continue to do so. We will most likely create a Task Force to look at this. And I’m absolutely convinced that we will find a compromise which will ensure that the global hockey community celebrates these awards in the future," explained FIH CEO Thierry Weil in an interview published on www.fih.ch.
Asked about the controversy which erupted after the awards were announced, Weil said, "If in an Olympic year, the gold medallists don’t win any Award and another nation gets all of them, it is clear that this won’t come across well! Therefore, I of course do understand the disappointment and also, to some extent, the anger, especially of the teams concerned."
He however hailed the Indian performance in Tokyo. "At the same time, I want to congratulate the winners! They were all nominated by an expert committee – made of FIH, FIH Athletes Committee, and high-performance representatives – and therefore were as much entitled as the others to win! And both Indian teams had a fantastic performance at the Olympic Games Tokyo .
"I assume that the natural joy which they should rightly feel by winning, such an award may have been altered by all this, and that is not nice either."
Talking about the voting process, he said "I’m not sure if there is any ideal process, to be honest. But this process – as long as it is implemented by everybody – should work. It is very similar to what is applied successfully by other organizations. It gives the chance to major hockey stakeholders – teams, players, coaches, fans, and media – to cast a vote for the most important yearly awards in global hockey, while a higher weight is given to national team coaches and captains."
He disclosed that it was not a new voting new process this time. "It was pretty much the same as last time. There were two differences. Firstly, we made it compulsory for the National Associations that their votes should come from their national team coaches and captains; I believe that everybody will agree that this was the right thing to do in order to increase the technical legitimacy of the vote.
"Secondly, the voting process for the coaches was the same as the one for the athletes this time (while the FIH Coach of the Year Award was determined by an FIH panel previously)," he said.
Weil said that before the vote, "we explained in detail the voting process as well as the weight given to the various voting groups. And after the vote, we published all results, from every voting group and for all nominees.
"Revealing who voted for whom is a question which we should have a look at. Will it bring something or not, I can’t tell at this stage. But we should not exclude any option before examining them."
About fans voting for an award, the FIH CEO said, "Our overall strategy at FIH is to put athletes and fans at the centre of everything we do. So, it is essential to give fans an option to express their views. If in this regard the current process is the right one or not, is something we will need to analyze, of course. But clearly, we need to involve the fans one way or the other."
"After all, thanks to this vote, we will have the opportunity to engage with almost 300,000 fans! This is not only good for India – where most of these fans are coming from – but for the growth of our sport overall and therefore the whole hockey community! Also, as we’ve mentioned on the day of the vote, all winning athletes have topped the standings in each of the three voting groups (National Associations / Fans and Players / Media). In other words, even if fans wouldn’t have voted, the winning athletes would have been the same."
To a query as to why almost half of the National Associations (NAs) did not vote he said, "I have to admit that I have no answer to this yet. Maybe we haven’t been clear enough? But we did send reminders to the NAs before the end of the vote. And I have personally contacted several members of the hockey community to warn them about this situation, and I know they were active."
''But still, many National Associations did not cast their vote. Clearly, this had by far the biggest impact on the results. If you set up a jury but half of this jury doesn’t vote, how can you expect that people will unanimously accept the results? In our analysis, we will have to establish why this situation happened."
Asked if the award process will remain the same in the future, he replied "I can’t answer this question before we do a thorough analysis. But I can tell you that we will work on the future Stars Awards with the global hockey community. We will engage with many stakeholders to come up with a process that receives the support of most and then go with it for next year."