In England, hockey is played in about 800 clubs affiliated to England Hockey, the sport’s governing body in the country. It’s through these clubs that the game has grown in strength, with the foundation of club activity found in league games. Clubs are organised through County and Regional Leagues, with both men and women participating in their respective leagues.
While every home nation in the United Kingdom has a distinct body that organises how the sport is played, a combined team typically represents the UK in competitions such as the Olympics. The combined women’s team is among the top in the world, winning bronze in the London 2012 Games and gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Rules of Play
Hockey (or field hockey) is played on a 91.4-metre by 55-metre field by two sides of 11 players each. Every player uses a stick with a rounded head to play a ball that’s 23 centimetres in circumference. The ultimate aim of playing the ball is to put it in the other team’s goal, thereby scoring a goal. The goal-scoring concept is similar to football, only players have to use sticks to play the ball. Like football, the 11 players are made up of defenders, strikers, a goalkeeper and midfielders. Of these, only the goalkeeper can use their hands and feet, in addition to the stick, to stop the ball from going into the goal.
Hockey rules are stipulated by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), which has drawn up rules for both indoor and outdoor hockey. Every two years the rules are reviewed, and new editions are published and released to the public. England Hockey, the governing body, is affiliated to both the FIH and the European Hockey Federation (EHF) and is mandated to implement the rules.
History of The Game
The use of the word hockey was first recorded in a 1773 book by Richard Johnson, but there’s also a belief that it may have been mentioned much earlier (1363) in a proclamation by King Edward III of England. The origin of the word is itself unknown, but some believe that it comes from the Middle French word hoquet, which means ‘shepherd’s stave’, possibly referring to the curved ends of hockey sticks that would be similar to the curves on the staves.
From a playing perspective, playing a ball using curved sticks was an activity captured in many cultures. 4,000-year-old Egyptian carvings have depicted people playing in a similar manner, while a depiction in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens from 600 BC shows men playing with horn-like sticks. In its current form, field hockey was first played in England in the mid-18th century, and it was in 1862 that the first hockey club (Blackheath) was created. The Hockey Association came into existence 24 years later, and it paved the way for the formation of both men and women’s associations.
By 1893, a magazine for hockey had been published, with coverage of the game quite extensive in the early years of the sport. Two years after the magazine, England’s men played their first international match against Ireland, scoring five and conceding none. Men’s hockey made its debut in the Olympics in 1908, with England winning a gold medal.
The English hockey team was an active one, playing 143 games by the Second World War. In the 1948 Olympics held in London, Great Britain entered and won a silver medal. In the Olympic editions that followed, both the men and women’s team performed well, with each bagging medals in different editions.
Many aspects of the game have remained unchanged over the years, but improvements in technology have allowed some changes in the ball, stick and goalkeeping equipment. Some rule changes have also been implemented, and in many places, artificial turf is the playing surface (over grass). The game has also gained popularity and is enjoyed by hundreds of players. Fiyaz Mughal is one of the sport’s many fans, having played hockey until he was 18 years old.