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Hockey and its origins

The roots of hockey are buried deep in antiquity. Historical records show that a crude form of the game was played in Egypt 4,000 years ago and in Ethiopia around 1,000BC. Various museums offer evidence that a form of the game was played by the Romans and Greeks as well as by the Aztecs several centuries before Columbus arrived in the New World. The modern game of hockey emerged in England in the mid-18th century and is largely attributed to the growth of public schools, such as Eton. The first Hockey Association was formed in the UK in 1876 and drew up the first formal set of rules. The original association survived for just six years but, in 1886, it was revived by nine founding member clubs.

Hockey and the Olympics

The inaugural Olympic Hockey Competition for men was held in London in 1908 with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales competing separately. With the addition of Germany and France, the competition ran with six teams. After having made its first appearance at the London Games, hockey was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games after host nations were granted control over ‘optional sports’. It reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp after pressure from Belgian hockey advocates before being omitted again in Paris in 1924. The formation of the International Hockey Federation in 1924 was not soon enough for the Paris Olympics but it did grant hockey re-entry in Amsterdam in 1928. Hockey has been on the programme ever since, with women’s hockey included for the first time in Moscow in 1980. At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, hockey celebrated 100 years as an Olympic sport. At the London 2012 Olympics, hockey was the third biggest sport in terms of ticket sales with over 630,000 sold. The Olympics is the ultimate hockey competition, with the Olympic gold medal being the most coveted prize in the sport.

Hockey and the FIH

Motivated by hockey’s omission from the 1924 Paris Games, the Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon (FIH) was founded by Paul Léautey. Mr Léautey, who would later become the first president of the FIH, called together seven National Federations to form the sport’s international governing body.

These founding members, which represented both men’s and women’s hockey in their countries, were Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland. Popularised in the late 19th century, the women’s game developed quickly in many countries. In 1927, the International Federation of Women’s Hockey Associations (IFWHA) was formed. After celebrating their respective Golden Jubilees - the FIH in 1974 and the IFWHA in 1980 - the two organisations came together in 1982 to form the current FIH. By 1964, there were already 50 countries affiliated with the FIH, as well as three Continental Associations - Africa, Pan America and Asia - and in 1974, there were 71 members. Today, the International Hockey Federation consists of five Continental Associations, 132 National Associations and is still growing, with 152 National Associations predicted by 2024. As a sign of its drive to maintain the sport’s ongoing growth, the FIH has put in place a ten-year strategic plan – the Hockey Revolution. To learn more about the Hockey Revolution, click here.

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