There’s a temptation to assume that just because a sport appears on the television and has some pull-focus camera shots with X-Factor style build-up music, that it warrants its place on the box in the corner of our lounges. Don’t be fooled, it’s just effective PR which draws the viewers in and sells advertising. In my experience some of the most deserving athletes have to feed on the scraps offered by the mainstream media.
Take a Sport which saw a medal for Team GB in the London 2012 Olympic Games, had 630,000 people come to visit The Riverbank Arena and was the third most watched Sport at our great games – Hockey.
A sport which is sees professionals compete in various nations including Holland ,Germany and Spain. It’s a dynamic sport with as much action, incident and drama as football, nothing a few super slow motion replays and well groomed ‘experts’ couldn’t add to, yet, one of the best teams in England struggles to attract more than 50 people to watch if for free every week.
Leicester Ladies Hockey Club aren’t new kids on the block, they’ve been around for only 10 years less than Leicester City Football Club but the players have to pay hundreds of pounds to compete in European competition whilst millions sloshes around in the pockets of average footballers, doesn’t seem fair but the game of Hockey has to help itself. Football, Cricket, Darts, they’ve all evolved and moulded their product to be marketable to the sugar daddies, TV broadcasters.
Whose responsibility it is I don’t know, those who take care of the national game I guess, but having had the pleasure of following The Orange Army to the European Indoor Champions Cup in February 2013, I wish there was more I could do to help.
Yes a few players are part of the central system which is making an effort to improve the level for England and Team GB but they are in the minority. Flying back from Austria after a disappointing trip for the Great Glen side, one of the players was sat next to me doing her homework on a laptop whilst next to her was a star of the team marking her students’ work ahead of a lesson she was taking 12 hours later in her job as a teacher.
The girls don’t want any sympathy and are well aware of where their sport sits in the landscape of today’s billions of pounds in TV rights, but it must hurt when they see a fat bloke chuck some darts at a board live on TV and see the hundreds of thousands of pounds gained in advertising revenue, whilst they watch on as other teams sell calendars to fund their existence, there’s the Outdoor European challenge in the spring of 2013 to try and fund after all (another £500+ per player for the privilege of playing)
But when you consider that Hockey was almost eliminated from the Olympic Games in a recent vote whilst Golf is included, it goes some way to illustrating the fight this historic sport has on it’s hands.
And yes whilst many ‘lads’ will give me the standard whack on the back, wink of the eye and rumbling “whey hey Stringer, eh, decent gig that son” – It was a pleasure to offer some professional reporting on a team representing Leicester in Europe with an incredible team ethic, focused leadership and welcoming of the press offering some honest coverage.
Well done Leicester Ladies, and say it quietly but there was a lump in my throat when as they emerged from their huddle before each match and belted out the word “LEICESTER” – They play for the shirt, I was lucky to be able to witness such an honest approach to the game.
Any local sponsors looking for a refreshing way to genuinely help an incredibly professional club, look no further. It may not gain you the TV exposure to boost your brand but I promise one thing, it’ll have an immeasurable effect. Credit to the local pie firm who have assisted with the finances in recent years – Pukka