‘A wake-up call from GreenFields’
The Royal Dutch Hockey Federation (KNHB) can look back on a Hockey World Cup that was highly successful in several respects. A new standard appears to have been set in the international world of hockey with both the concept and the synthetic turf system.
txtures spoke to Johan Wakkie and Erik Gerritsen, the departing and incoming director of the KNHB respectively. ‘This is what we intended.’
Johan Wakkie (left) and Erik Gerritsen
Three things were important to the KNHB during the preparations for the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup and the selection of the synthetic turf system: developing the synthetic turf system together with an international player, behind which there is another large company. ‘When we came back from London after the 2012 Olympic Games, we said: “We must find a player who is completely autonomous.” There were indeed companies that wanted to play a role, but did not have the organization to market the system internationally. It is continuity in particular that is so important. We also said: “This is the pitch and these are the specs. We want to be able to install it 12 months in advance, so that the teams can prepare.” Another element was that we wanted to determine the colour of the pitch ourselves. And this is how we arrived at TenCate and GreenFields. We all entered into it wholeheartedly.’
The greatest risk was that the pitch would not be good enough. That’s why a test pitch was installed at Klein Zwitserland hockey club. During its development input from the players was crucial. Both of them believe that this is the future: ‘It was the fact that we worked together that brought about success.’ The improvements that were carried out after several inspections soon resulted in a pitch that was ‘completely satisfactory’. ‘In this way we created calm. As a rule pitches for European Championships or the World Cup are ready only a couple of months before the start of the tournament, but in this case it was ready a year in advance.’
When it comes to the two selected colours, it took a year to reach an agreement on this with the International Hockey Federation (FIH). ‘Television companies were delighted with these colours, as were the local residents because these pitches do not produce such an annoying glare as blue ones.’
All in all according to Johan Wakkie and Erik Gerritsen it was ‘a unique example of cooperation’. This was certainly a wake-up call from GreenFields for everyone, including the international hockey community, and in the process the company attained a good position. All the players were enthusiastic about this synthetic turf. This is what we had intended and how we had envisaged it both as a tournament and an event. It is suitable for other sports too and for developing our sport further.
Needless to say, the success of this World Cup has led to further growth in the popularity of hockey. On the advice of Johan Wakkie, the councillors responsible for sports in The Hague and Amsterdam had earlier reserved a substantial amount for hockey. ‘The Netherlands is becoming impoverished at a variety of levels, but hockey still remains standing. In terms of the number of members in the Netherlands it is one of the three growth sports. In the west of the country, clubs already have waiting lists.’
The success of the chosen approach – a World Cup with sporting, educative and cultural secondary activities – raises the question of whether it would not also benefit football. They both have their doubts about this, however. ‘The large numbers of people alone – both players and supporters – that you would have to accommodate would place enormous demands on safety. We had only two complexes at a single location, you can cope with that. Football is even more of a national sport, where you see the behaviour of all sections of society. What football however can learn from this is that if families are more involved, behaviour changes. As soon as the hockey match begins, people would not dream of behaving as they do at football.’
The question ‘Where do we go from here? ’ then arises. ‘Together with the entire hockey world we shall have to hold on to this momentum and success’, Erik Gerritsen begins. ‘At the same time we won´t be resting on our laurels. We shall continue in our usual way, building on our success and remaining alert. Society changes. You can’t do it alone. You have to continue to provide added value to the clubs.’
He realizes that the concept of the 2014 World Cup will be difficult to copy on an international scale. Hockey is more popular in the Netherlands. ‘Asian countries have less of a club culture. You can, however, adapt it to the local situation, connect the match element to local themes - and you need ambition.’
‘It´s in all our interests to develop the sport further’, adds Johan Wakkie. ‘You’re doing it for the sake of the sport itself. For the future it’s vital that pitches are installed, also at multisport level, like the Cruyff Courts. The message is: install some pitches for recreational sports and schools. Schools are an important partner as they’re able to do something educational with them. The FIH wants to involve India and Pakistan more, but even more important than one or two tournaments in those countries is having lots of pitches. The international world of hockey would benefit from the installation of more pitches across the world. And TenCate is ideal for this.’
That brings us to the role of TenCate as a whole. For Johan Wakkie it is clear: TenCate must continue to highlight its profile and together with the installer ‘make a lot more noise’. He pointed to what happened at ADO Den Haag football club, where the sub-layer is suitable for both football and hockey. ‘A combination pitch like that with the e-layer at its core is worth its weight in gold. Then you can hold multiple tournaments and organize an event on the same base layer in just a couple of weeks. At the Kyocera Stadium as the showroom you can install a state-of-the-art pitch. In fact, it would be ideal to build a new sports complex around the Kyocera Stadium. This would make it much livelier and you would use the stadium differently and more frequently. And in this way you show how flexible you can be.’