Hockey is a common sport for men and women in English-speaking countries, usually played on a grass field by two teams of eleven over two thirty-five minute periods. The name was only arrived at in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, though the sport itself dates back around 4,000 years to the earliest stick-and-ball games. Indoor hockey became more and more popular after the Second World War, a period which has also seen a continued rise in women’s hockey (championed by the suffragettes at the start of the century). Britain boasts the oldest women’s club in the world at Wimbledon (founded in 1889) and in many countries hockey is viewed primarily as a women’s sport.
   In Britain, hockey remains something of a Cinderella sport. Its image is that of a middle-class activity, played mainly by women, or possibly by wellmannered boys from the public schools. People remember Ronald Searle’s cartoons or famous sequences from the St Trinian’s films starring Alastair Sim and Joyce Grenfell with her catchphrase, ‘jolly hockey-sticks’. Hockey comes well behind football and rugby (see rugby league; rugby union) in terms both of the number of practitioners and spectators, and is rarely televised. It has always been widely played in schools (more so by girls than by boys) and school coaches aim to make it more popular by introducing mini-hockey with fewer than the standard eleven players and by using smaller sticks and balls. Hockey’s rules were first formalized in 1886 in Britain by the Men’s Hockey Association. At the local level, hockey is relatively healthy with 2,080 clubs and an estimated 87,000 regular players, but Britain today has lost at the international level any dominance that it once had. However the England team has benefited from the appointment of the Australian Barry Dancer as coach in January 1998. He played in two World Cups and has an Olympic silver medal from Montreal in 1976. He has brought on prominent players like Russell Garcia, the nation’s most capped man, and the sole survivor from the 1988 gold medal-winning Olympics team, Calum Giles. Consequently England, whose previous best had been a silver medal in 1986, had a respectable performance at the 1998 World Cup, finishing in sixth place (just enough to satisfy the National Lottery funders, who put £1.6 m into the elite end of the sport).
   England’s women’s team, by contrast, did not do so well. Under their coach Maggie Souyave, they could only manage ninth position in the World Cup, just ahead of Scotland. This World Cup (it is a quadrennial event) was held at Utrecht, The Netherlands, where, by contrast with hockey’s status in Britain, it was the major sporting event of the year. Pakistan, the defending men’s champions from 1994 were defeated, with the eventual winners being The Netherlands. Australia retained their position as world women’s champions. Some rule changes do not bode well for England. From July 1998, substitutions at penalty corners will be outlawed, bringing to a close the era of the penalty-corner specialist. This may prove difficult for Calum Giles, whose forte this has been. The advent of Lottery money should however revitalize the sport.
   Further reading
    Moore, C. (1988) Discovering Hockey, London: Partridge.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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