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A Short History

Over 60s (Grand Masters) hockey started in the Netherlands back in 1988 and in 1989 when the NHC De Zestigplussers was founded by Jan ten Hoopen and his hockey friends. In the early 1990s, one or two ‘international’ matches were played on an informal basis between the Netherlands, Belgium and France as a result of old friendships through hockey.

In February 1995, a tournament for teams with players aged above 60 (Grand Masters) was held in Lille, France through the efforts of Jacques Lévy. Players from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France and England participated. It was at this tournament that the LX Club, England was founded.

As early as the 1970s Masters hockey had become established in Australia, the idea being to keep players active by extending their career through the Masters. Hockey in Australia had always been a major sport and the concept of Masters hockey developed rapidly in all states and Territories, with teams playing each other in an annual Masters tournament at various age divisions from 40+ upwards. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Australia established their first Grand Masters (60+) team encouraged by the developments in Europe. 

First unofficial World Cup for Grand Masters

The first unofficial World Cup for Grand Masters was held in 1998 in Utrecht/Bussum with teams from Germany, Netherlands, England and Australia. Australia hosted a tournament in Darwin two years later and it was decided that a more formal Grand Masters Hockey World Cup should be staged at Kuala Lumpur in 2002. During this tournament, at a meeting of the national delegates, it was agreed that WGMA should be formed to organise and encourage the development of international Grand Masters hockey, with Ted Jones (Australia) being appointed as the Hon Secretary. Kuala Lumpur also marked the first appearance of Alliance, a side formed by Johan Herbert to provide international hockey for players from countries unable to assemble a national team. As Alliance International HC they are now regular participants at WGMA events.

In 2002 Scotland formed a first representative side to compete at the European Super Veterans Tournament (ESVT) in Paris that year and hosted the same tournament themselves two years later.

Athens offered to host the next World Cup in September 2004 immediately after their Olympic Games. Ted Jones (AUS) was asked to take the role of Tournament Director and with a small and efficient Greek supporting team, organised the 2nd Grand Masters Hockey World Cup tournament with the participation of 12 teams from Europe and Australia. Prior to the tournament, a WGMA ‘task force’, combining the experience of Peter Child, Robert Clark, Doug Morrice and Bernard Verbunt, finally established the special WGMA age regulations for this and future tournaments.

At the WGMA Congress held during the tournament, Peter Child (GER) was elected the first President of WGMA, with Vice President Bernard Verbunt (NED) and Hon. Secretary Ted Jones (AUS). It was also agreed that WGMA should develop a strategic plan to gain recognition by FIH of the Association’s role in developing Grand Masters hockey worldwide.

Meanwhile the membership of WGMA continued to grow. Italy had entered a team in the World Cup in Athens, which also saw the introduction of a Great Grand Masters (65+) section, and in 2005 a Japanese team visited Europe and competed as a guest side at the European Super Veterans Tournament (ESVT) in Rotterdam. Egypt made their first appearance at the World Cup at Leverkusen in 2006 and, in the same tournament, Malaysia competed for the first time in Europe. Earlier that year the first Senior Grand Masters (70+) international had been played between Netherlands and England at HC Rotterdam.

On 9th November 2006, after a two-­year campaign by the WGMA board, with frequent meetings between Mrs. Els van Breda Vriesman-Commandeur (then FIH President), Bernard Verbunt and Peter Child, the Executive Committee of the FIH at their biennial Congress in London formally agreed to recognise WGMA as the sole body responsible for international Grand Masters (60+) hockey. Subsequently, in November 2006 at the new FIH head office in Lausanne, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by FIH and WGMA board members Peter Child, Bernard Verbunt and Doug Morrice.

The WGMA Board drew up a long-­term strategy to achieve its goals in promoting Grand Masters hockey in the international hockey world with the invaluable support of both the FIH and its national associations. At the same time the WGMA added to its Board John Watts as Vice President (Australia) and Kenji Hamanaka as Vice President (Japan) to help implement this strategy.

The first Grand Masters Hockey European Cup was played in 2007 at Canterbury and it was agreed that in future the tournament should be played every two years at the same time as, and near to, the main EuroHockey Nations Championships. The Grand Masters Hockey World Cup would be staged every two years and would, where possible, be linked to the FIH World Cup and to the Olympic Games.

After difficulties in arranging a venue near the Beijing Olympics, the 2008 World Cup was held in Hong Kong, where the host nation and South Africa competed for the first time. The following year Amstelveen, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, hosted the 2nd Grand Masters Hockey European Cup.

2010 saw Grand Masters hockey make its first trip to Africa when South Africa hosted the World Cup at their Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium in Cape Town and New Zealand impressed by making the last four on their first appearance at a WGMA event.

Another newcomer, Belgium, took part and created an impact at the 2011 Grand Masters Hockey European Cup at Neuss, Germany. While in Singapore later that year, the first Asian Cup was staged involving Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia, who became the first winners.

Grand Masters Hockey continued to grow and over 40 teams took part in the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup at Oxford in 2012, with well over a thousand players, officials and supporters enjoying another feast of competitive hockey and international friendship.

A similarly enlarged Grand Masters Hockey European Cup was held at Kontich, Belgium in 2013 a few miles away from the EuroHockey Championships at Boom and Hong Kong hosted the 2nd Grand Masters Hockey Asian Cup later that year.

In 2014 the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup was staged in The Hague at the same time as the main FIH World Cup. A record 56 teams from 15 countries participated in four age groups – 60+, 65+, 70+ and 75+ – over a period of 8 days. The tournament also marked the first appearance of a Women’s 60+ section at which Australia became World Champions.

To ensure the continuing development of women’s Grand Masters hockey, the WGMA Board established a Women’s Steering Group with women representatives from England, Holland, Australia and New Zealand and in December 2014 the first woman Vice President was appointed to sit on the WGMA Board.

Another major milestone in Masters and Grand Masters hockey was the establishment in 2013 of an FIH Masters Hockey Panel involving representatives from WGMA, IMHA and FIH, whose principal aim was the promotion and further development of Masters hockey throughout the world. This has become a forum in which IMHA and WGMA, with the support and encouragement of FIH, have been able to work more closely together to standardise the management of Masters hockey at all ages and for both genders.

At the WGMA Congress held in The Hague in 2014, Peter Child stepped down as President after a period in office of 10 years, and Wim van Noortwijk (NED) was elected to succeed him. Peter Child remained on the Board as Past President to support the Board’s further activities over the next two years and, at the FIH Congress held in Marrakech in October 2014 he was presented by FIH with the Diploma of Merit ‘for distinguished services rendered to the FIH and to hockey’, another confirmation of the respect now shown to WGMA by FIH for their global management of Grand Masters hockey.

Since 2014 tournaments have continued to grow with the participation of an increasing number of nations and teams. The Grand Masters Hockey European Cup was held at Southgate, England (2015) and in Glasgow, Scotland (2017). In the same years the Grand Masters Hockey Asian Cup was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2015) and Hiroshima, Japan (2017). The Grand Masters Hockey World Cup 2016 was held in Newcastle, Australia and two years later 77 teams – the largest number ever in a WGMA event – contested the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. The men’s competition included age groups 60+, 65+, 70+ and 75+ while the women added an 65+ section to the 60+ who had first appeared in The Hague in 2014. Argentina, Canada and the United States all made their first Grand Masters World Cup appearance in Barcelona.

At the request of FIH, WGMA worked with IMHA to develop a single organisation responsible for the management of Masters hockey for all ages and both genders from 35+ up to 75+. The formation of World Masters Hockey (WMH) was approved by the members of both WGMA and IMHA at their Congresses in 2018 and came into existence at the end of 2018. It became the only body recognised by FIH as being responsible for the worldwide development and management of Masters hockey and international Masters hockey tournaments. WGMA President Wim van Noortwijk and Hon Secretary Adrian Stephenson had represented WGMA on the Interim WMH Management Group, which was responsible for the formation of WMH, and became members of the first elected Board of WMH at the General Meeting at the Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands in August 2019. The Members agreed with the Board that WGMA should remain as an active organisation to support the work of WMH, to provide a focal point for all those involved in organising Grand Masters hockey around the world and to encourage tournaments and tours outside the main WMH national events. 

Since 2020 WGMA has been active in supporting the annual tournaments at Lille, Tilburg and Brussels and had a leading role in helping to organise the tournament in Barcelona in 2022 which celebrated both the 125th anniversary of Real Club de Polo and the contribution to Grand Masters hockey of former WGMA President Wim van Noortwijk. WGMA continues to build a network of individuals and organisations worldwide to ensure that there will always be plenty of hockey for all men and women who still enjoy playing beyond the age of 60.

October 2023