As hockey players, fans, umpires, parents return to the hockey fields all over Europe, we are taking some time this week to take a snapshot of what’s happening around Europe and who are the drivers to make hockey happen in a safe environment for players, club members and fans.
Today let’s talk about Club hockey, the cornerstone of hockey in Europe!
We were delighted that Alexia Sifneos, Club Manager AH&BC was able to take some time out of her busy day to chat to us about the impact of COVID19 and how AH&BC have worked hard to ensure the safe return of players, parents and fans to the top Dutch Club.
“I have to be honest, it’s not been easy. First of all, I’d like to pay a special tribute to our club Board, normally they meet once a month, but ever since March they have had weekly zoom calls to thrash out the impact of COVID19. They are exhausted, but even over the holiday time, they still worked away behind the scenes, worrying not just about the health implications, but also the financial impact and the damage to the essence of what makes a Dutch hockey club special, the ‘social impact’. Alexia said.
She continued “One of the major challenges is the lack of direct guidance as really no one is an expert on this and so, in the end, a number of clubs in the region decided that we would discuss best practise for our clubs. While no club is exactly the same, there was a lot of sharing knowledge and thrashing out ideas that would work for us! For us managers, we’ve had to take the government guidelines, local guidelines etc and see how we can make them work in each of our clubs. Unfortunately every time the guidelines are announced, the paper is updated but with no indication of what the changes are! So we had to read them again line by line.”
Alexia said that they are now into the 3rd week of club hockey, no just the top teams but of course all the teams in the club. “So we’ve got the women’s and men’s teams in their ‘pods’ and the women’s team, in particular under the leadership of Robert Tigges worked so hard to keep the players well. So we were all totally gutted when one of our ladies players tested positive. However, since then, there seems to be a player per team testing positive all over the Netherlands and the protocols are working to protect the other players. I guess we are all learning to ‘live with it'”
“For the other club members it’s more difficult, but they are such an important part of the club, they are what makes us ‘tick’. So we all agreed that we cannot postpone everything. We need to give our members some fun to look forward to, it’s really not ok for members to come, train and go home! We have arranged a ‘social space’ around each pitch for the 3rd half of the game! So the teams can stay, with social distance, after their own game for the length of the game that’s going on on that pitch after theirs. So far our members have been really very supportive of the work that we are doing and we are extremely grateful for that.”
She concluded that “People really do have to take responsibility for themselves, we literally cannot do anymore as a club, we have all the signage and have communicated with everyone how they must behave! Now we need everyone visiting AH&BC to adhere to all the rules so that we can make the most of this strange time.”
The EHF is delighted to see hockey back on the field after the many online webinar training, athlete-driven individual training, the ‘loo roll challenge’ and all the other brilliant initiatives that the clever hockey family have delivered for the past few months.
We wish the FIH, DHB and Belgian Hockey well on the return of the FIH Pro League today, which will be available on the new FIH Hockey app – Watch.hockey.
Join in the conversation and send us links to what your club / school / federation is doing for the #SafeReturn to hockey.
Photograph: Volunteers on duty at AH&BC and the club signage (AH&BC (c))