Indoor field hockey
|Highest governing body||International Hockey Federation|
|Equipment||Indoor Field Hockey ball, Indoor Field Hockey Stick, mouthguard, shinpads|
It is traditionally and mainly played as a pastime by outdoor field hockey players during the off-season, when the outdoor pitches are frozen, or alternatively conditions are too hot for outdoor play. Indoor field hockey is played in regular national and international championships. The first Indoor Field Hockey World Cup was organized in 2003. It included countries which do not compete at the highest level of the outdoor game.
Indoor field hockey differs from its outdoor parent in several ways:
- The playing field is smaller than the outdoor pitch. An indoor pitch is 18m to 22m wide by 36m to 44m long, divided by a center line. The shooting circle is a semicircle measured out 9m from each goal post. Side-board mark the sidelines helping to keep the ball in the field. The pitch is made of wood or synthetic material. The board surface facing inwards to playing surface is angled slightly to encourage ball to bounce down not up.
- The goals are smaller than a field hockey: 2m high by 3m wide and a minimum of 1m deep. (This is the same size as Team Handball goals as early indoor hockey used existing handball courts)
- A team consists of 6 players on the pitch, 5 field players and 1 goalkeeper, with a maximum 12 players on a team.
- Internationally the game is divided into 2 periods of 20 minutes. (In the German Indoor league, they play 30 minute halves with the ability to call time outs as in basketball.) Halftime break is 15 minutes. In case of a regulation tie teams play up to two 5-minute golden-goal overtimes; otherwise, the game will be decided by penalty strokes (5 rounds for each team followed by sudden-death rounds in case of ties).
- The players may not hit the ball, but only push it or deflect it, and may not raise the ball except in the shooting circle, with the purpose of scoring a goal.
- The balls and the sticks are similar, but players prefer lighter sticks than for the outdoor game.
The small field and sideboards make indoor field hockey a quick, technical and physical game. Some of the original rules eventually influenced outdoor hockey, such as unrestricted substitution. It is often an ideal game for field hockey players to develop vision on and off the ball, developing a better understanding of tactics and set plays.
Indoor hockey developed in Germany during the 1950s, quickly spreading to other European nations. Belgium was one of the countries to adopt the field hockey variant, and in 1966 René Frank, a native of Belgium, who was later to become President of the FIH, persuaded the German Hockey Associations to give responsibility over the rules of Indoor Hockey to the FIH. This led to the FIH recognising indoor hockey in its constitution in 1968.1
Whereas in many countries field hockey is played all year long, in Germany and Austria the hockey season is divided evenly into a field hockey half in summer and an indoor hockey season in Winter. There has been criticism that this impairs these countries' chances in international field hockey competition, but on the other hand the north European climate favours indoor hockey in Winter, as outdoor pitches may be unplayable due to snow and ice. In Germany's case one could argue that it complements and enhances skills of their players with the German Women winning gold in Athens Olympics and German Men winning the 2006 Field Hockey World Cup, the 2007 indoor hockey world cup and gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In Germany indoor hockey is quite popular with many players, as due to the smaller fields and the use of side-boards the game-play is much faster. It is also both technically and physically very demanding.
The first FIH sanctioned tournament matches of Indoor Hockey were played in 1972.
The International Hockey Federation organise the Indoor Hockey World Cup start from year 2003. The first Indoor World Cup was held in Leipzig, Germany in 2003, where the home nation won both the men's and women's gold medals. Eurosport television ratings for the recent Indoor Hockey World Cup, held in Leipzig, Germany, have shown the event to garner large audiences. A total of 20 million viewers watched 13 hours broadcast on Eurosport, with ten matches aired live. Peak viewing audience reached 889,000 viewers during the opening Poland vs.USA match, with the average live viewing figure for the whole tournament at 601,000. Germany and Poland, Eurosport’s two strongest markets, showed particular interest, with more than 4 million different viewers tuning in from Germany, and more than 1.5 million watching from Poland. The average audience, calculated across several of Eurosport’s key territories, showed a strong bias towards young males according to Eurosport’s research. Arnaud Simon, Eurosport's Program Director commented: 'The first Indoor World Cup was a very exciting event, well suited for television and with good production standards. These characteristics were rewarded with very strong ratings, particularly considering that many of the matches were aired at off-peak viewing times.'
Els van Breda Vriesman, the President of the International Hockey Federation, added: 'The figures speak for themselves, proving not only that hockey has mass appeal on television, but also that the target audience presents a very attractive commercial proposition for potential sponsors and advertisers.'
Germany defended their titles in Vienna, Austria in February 2007. The German men were successful, although the women were beaten in the semi-final by Spain, who went on to lose the final against the Netherlands.
The European championship, both men's and women's, was first held in 1974.