Hockey on the radio? Listening has just as much appeal as TV

The FIH ran a first for its Pro League output on Thursday when it broadcast audio commentary for the GB v Germany games. Hockey on the radio? Give us more.

The medium was a welcome addition – and it works. In the fast-paced world of modern hockey, where it’s sometimes difficult to pick up the ball on TV, listening has the added benefit in the whole narrative.

I tuned in (okay, no dial just a link) for the first-half of the GB men’s game against Germany. Of course there is no substitute for being in a stadium live as a supporter, but given there are many nuances to reporting on the sport – the rolling subs, making sure you’ve spotted a change in goalkeepers, the end-to-end nature, who committed which foul in a crowded circle, which all told makes football feel like watching chess – sitting back and visualising the action was certainly stress-free.

It helps too that there are dab hands behind the mic. Nick Irvine and Todd Williams, a THP columnist, were ensconced in a makeshift sound booth at Oxford Hawks HC and taking the feed audio from Lee Valley. They were also working off one microphone, a la Murray Walker and James Hunt, the former F1 commentary supremos.

As firsts go, this hockey duo pulled it off. What worked best, in comparison to TV commentary, is the way radio can take a step back and add more knowledge for the listener without following every passage of play, while television voices naturally react to action on the pitch.

At half-time, Irvine and Williams chatted away in a podcast-style segment on the pressures of Olympic selection, while we also picked up some insight; learning that captain Janne Muller-Wieland had handed the armband to Charlotte Stapenhorst for the matches in case the pandemic should throw up some curveballs ahead of Tokyo.

Those 10 minutes of audio were far removed from TV, which fills the space with adverts and those half-time interviews with coaches.

Thursday night was a pilot run for FIH radio. Of course, there were potential pitfalls; not least with the conversational style missing the split second 80-yard aerial into the circle and goal. But as a direction goes for the old medium working in hockey? Saying ‘Alexa, Play FIH radio’ would have an appeal. And more so given that the whole objective of this is that it’s not geo-blocked, that dastardly phrase most hockey aficionados would like scrapped.

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