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WGMA and IMHA – the Way Ahead
Two organisations currently exist which have responsibility for Masters and Grand Masters hockey respectively :
- WGMA – World Grand Masters (Hockey) Association
- IMHA – International Masters Hockey Association
WGMA and IMHA are both independent organisations that have grown out of a need for international masters hockey to be formally organised. For many years there had been occasional Masters and Grand Masters matches between sides nominally representing their country. There was no framework into which these ‘international’ matches fitted. There was no formal recognition of any international Masters or Grand Masters competition by the national governing bodies of those teams taking part, nor indeed by FIH.
Somewhat frustrated by the lack of interest from their own national governing bodies the Grand Masters decided to take matters into their own hands and created in 2002 a world governing body of their own (WGMA) to regulate their international tournaments and to encourage the development of Grand Masters hockey in other hockey-playing countries. Australia had been among the first countries to develop hockey for the younger Masters age groups and the Australian-based IMHA had organised Pacific Rim tournaments from 1981 against Over 40 teams from other countries in that region. It was from this well-established base that IMHA established a new constitution in 2006 to become a worldwide organisation and to encourage wider participation in Masters hockey among European teams.
WGMA were the first to approach FIH and to show how Grand Masters hockey was gathering steam. FIH were impressed by what they saw and WGMA was officially recognised by FIH in 2006 as the governing body for the organisation of international hockey for men and women over 60 years old (Grand Masters). Two years later IMHA was also officially recognised as the body responsible for the younger Masters age groups from over 40 to over 55, again for both genders.
Since they were founded WGMA have organised Grand Masters Hockey World Cups every two years (2002- Kuala Lumpur, 2004 - Athens, 2006 –Leverkusen, 2008 – Hong Kong, 2010 – Cape Town and 2012 – Oxford) and Grand Masters Hockey European Cups in the years in between (2007 – Canterbury, 2009 – Amstelveen, 2011 – Neuss). A first Grand Masters Hockey Asian Cup was held in Singapore in 2011.
IMHA have also organised regular international tournaments in Europe (2007 – Birmingham, 2011 - Krefeld) and the Far East (2009 – Hong Kong, 2011 – Singapore) culminating with the first official Masters Hockey World Cup at Canterbury in 2012.
The Present (as at 2012)
IMHA and WGMA are both recognised by FIH and effectively work on behalf of FIH as volunteer organisations working in parallel to develop interest in Masters and Grand Masters hockey worldwide and to organise international tournaments on a regular basis. Regular meetings are held between FIH and the representatives of IMHA and WGMA to ensure that there is a unified approach to Masters hockey at all ages.
IMHA and WGMA both have their own executive boards which answer to the member nations who are represented by appointed delegates. A formal Congress meeting is held every two years at the World Cup tournaments and business is conducted by email in the interim period. IMHA and WGMA representatives attend the FIH Congress every year to report on progress and to further increase the international Masters network. WGMA schedule their World and European tournaments to coincide with the FIH World Cup and with the EHF EuroNations Championships. IMHA have established a similar pattern for their World Cup but have not yet created a European Cup competition.
WGMA also encourage other Grand Masters international events such as the UK Home Internationals and an annual contest between Japan and Korea. Australia also compete with New Zealand on a regular basis.
At the request of FIH IMHA and WGMA are currently working together to standardise the constitutions on which they both operate. They are also working to replace their existing tournament regulations with a set of tournament regulations for both Masters and Grand Masters hockey which is as near as possible to the current FIH tournament regulations with variations only where they are deemed appropriate and only when approved by FIH. This should ensure that both IMHA and WGMA work even more closely in parallel.
Current member nations of WGMA are :
Australia, Belgium, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, Wales, and Alliance International H.C., an associate member, whose role is to assemble multi-national teams for WGMA events in order to introduce players from non-member countries to Grand Masters hockey.
Currently IMHA and WGMA are successfully managing their tournaments and with the support of FIH are encouraging wider international participation in Masters hockey.
Any change to this arrangement would need to be justified as being a step forward with obvious benefits to all.
As the board of WGMA we would agree that it is in everyone’s interest for FIH to take an interest in Masters hockey and perhaps there will come a time when FIH takes Masters hockey into its own management structure and organises tournaments directly under FIH control. However we would strongly recommend against any hasty action that might undo much of the groundwork of the past few years.
WGMA and IMHA are managed by unpaid volunteers, who have developed an understanding of what works for their particular age groups. They have a level of expertise and a volume of experience that it would be hard to replace.
The success of Masters and Grand Masters tournaments, and therefore it future growth, is built on a balance of competitive hockey and the enjoyment that the participants get from these events. We would make a very strong case for the fact that there are very different characteristics between Masters and Grand Masters participants and their supporters. Although 60 may seem an arbitrary age division, it has worked well to differentiate between the two groups of players.
Grand Masters at over 60 are nearing retirement, or have already retired. They have grown families and, by and large, they have a reasonable amount of disposable income so their wives/partners very often travel with them. This means that the social side of any event is critical to its success – happy partners mean happy players! Within the age bracket 60-80 (and there are some even older) the players have much in common, share similar memories and may well have played against each other for a number of years.
Masters being a younger group find it more difficult to find the time and resources to travel long distances for lengthy tournaments. They are invariably still in work, often have young families and therefore have partners who find it more difficult to travel with them and are reluctant to see holiday entitlement spent on hockey rather than family holidays. Conversation and behaviour after the game, and even musical tastes at social events, are very different between Masters and Grand Masters.
We would strongly recommend that FIH develop an even closer relationship with both IMHA and WGMA and that meetings between all three parties take place two or three times a year as an informal Masters committee. We would wish to see IMHA and WGMA operating in parallel with a similar management structure, the same basic constitution and the same tournament regulations. As stated above in ‘The Present’, we are already working towards this goal. We would also like to see the Grand Masters and Masters Hockey World Cups, European Cups and other federation tournaments being planned alongside one another, albeit at different host clubs, to coincide with the principal FIH and federation events.
We would expect FIH, as the sport’s governing body, to take a lead in encouraging and supporting Masters hockey but would recommend that FIH delegate the management of tournaments and the further development of both Masters and Grand Masters hockey to the two independent organisations who are currently willing to operate on behalf of FIH but at no expense to FIH. While both organisations would certainly appreciate some financial support from FIH to cover the cost of attending Congress, all other costs relating to Masters hockey would continue to be paid for by WGMA, IMHA and the HNOCs out of membership subscriptions and tournament fees.
As regards a merger or a formation of one mega organisation to cover all Masters and Grand Masters age groups, the present members of the WGMA board would certainly not wish to take on the organisation of the IMHA age-groups and we feel that our members would think it a retrograde step to abandon the management structure that they have helped to develop within WGMA. We feel that the tournaments for both groups are already stretching the existing management resources and a tournament of over 100 teams would be a bridge too far for any voluntary organisation – or host club.
The only reason for FIH to take a more active management role in Masters hockey would be if the profile of Masters hockey reached a level where it became a cash-generating arm of the game but we doubt that that is likely in the foreseeable future. Big money sponsors, television rights and payment for the players is still some way off, certainly for the Grand Masters!
WGMA and IMHA – Board Members (2012)
|Peter Child – President||Germany||Ben Rea – President||England|
|Wim van Noortwijk – Vice President||Netherlands||John Stuart – European Vice President||England|
|Kenji Hamanaka – Vice President||Japan||Kanan Pakrisamy – Asian Vice President||Singapore|
|John Watts – Vice President||Australia||Sue Briggs – Administration Manager||Australia|
|Adrian Stephenson – Hon. Secretary||England||Peri Buckley – Technical Officer||Australia|
|Dave Ferguson – Hon. Treasurer||Wales||Glenn Paton – Hon.Treasurer||Scotland|
WGMA Hon. Secretary Adrian Stephenson