Rene Fasel: ‘Politics’ holding Great Britain back

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The first period intermission of Great Britain versus Serbia in Group G of the IIHF Winter Olympic pre-Qualification tournament in Cortina, Italy was a pretty inconspicuous 15-20 minute period. Too many short breaks in play where fresh ice was cut and the players took a well earned breather.

You may be wondering, then, why that intermission break could have been so different to the hundreds of others just like it across the world over the course of last weekend. What could possibly have come to light during that brief space of time to warrant any amount of discernible coverage?

Well respected broadcast journalist and commentator, Seth Bennett, who has a prominent role in the EIHL to boot, was providing commentary for the tournament on BBC Radio 5live Sports Extra, when during the aforementioned 1st period break he interviewed IIHF president Rene Fasel.

It is what was divulged during this interview that is of great significance to British Ice Hockey, and why this period break was unlike any other from Great Britain’s perspective.

The interview covered several topics surrounding the world of hockey as a whole, and can be watched in full here, but it was these questions about Great Britain in particular which should have alarm bells ringing throughout the governing bodies of British Ice Hockey.

When asked about the goings on at Ice Hockey UK and Hockey from a British perspective, Fasel had this to say:

It is sometimes a headache. We tried a couple of years ago to help them and really try to force them in the direction where the potential really is. There is huge potential in Great Britain. There is potential. I don’t know why it doesn’t work….. We need people there really pushing very hard and having one goal. With the difference between all the federations, England, Scotland and all the rest, there is some politics there. It’s too badIs there a place for another sport (aside from Football)? I think yes. There is a place for Hockey. The people like the contact, the fight in the sport.”

When asked what his advice would be for the domestic league and IHUK moving forward, Fasel commented:

We should try to find and identity, there are a lot of foreigners playing there. We should start with the juniors and have a good junior development programme to build it up. Coordinate everything so everyone is going in the same directionWe are ready at the federation to help them but it’s complicated. You are not easy people!

Many players who played for GB in Cortina have since tweeted out their thoughts on Rene Fasel’s comments. It is abundantly clear change is required. So what happens next?

There is patently a considerable challenge for IHUK chairman Richard Grieveson to co-ordinate every party within British Hockey towards ‘common goals’. That is something he has since talked about, responding to Fasel’s interview with the BBC. In an interview with Ice Hockey UK Radio, Grieveson conversed about making the appropriate changes and commencing work on those ‘right now’. Additionally, he revealed plans to meet with Rene Fasel and further discuss matters.

It would appear that this is very much a watch-this-space situation. Opinions are out in the open and that could well accelerate proceedings. The desire for progression is unequivocally there from the players, and the die-hard core of British National and Domestic fans. Hockey is a sport on the rise on these shores. Coverage is improving, the standard is definitely progressing, now junior programmes, amongst other things, must be implemented to ensure this continues.

Olympic dreams are over for another four year cycle, but the hope remains strong that in the not so distant future Great Britain will once again factor on the Olympic stage, and perhaps even gatecrash Pool A at the World Championships as well. It’s not unusual for teams and fans to revisit certain games over a course of a season or year and circle one as a turning point. What is unusual is to identify an intermission as one. Maybe, just maybe, everyone with some form of invested interest in Great Britain will do just that if the National team features on Hockey’s top tier once more. Now there’s a thought.

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